(STATS) -- Any deficit in the FCS playoffs was going to trouble unbeaten Sam Houston State considering it had trailed against only one opponent all season -- for a mere 3 minutes, 14 seconds of first-quarter clock.
So the Bearkats weren't prepared for the kind of lead James Madison built against them Friday night.
No team would be.
Fourth-seeded James Madison scored early and often while eliminating the fifth-seeded Bearkats 65-7 in the national quarterfinals at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
James Madison (12-1), which won the CAA Football title under first-year coach Mike Houston, advances to the FCS semifinals for the third time in program history. It will play next weekend against the winner of Saturday's matchup between No. 8 seed South Dakota State and No. 1 seed North Dakota State. The Dukes previously reached the semis in their 2004 national title season and in 2008.
Their point total was the sixth-highest in playoff history and the most since Georgia Southern's 72-29 win over Northern Arizona in the 1999 first round.
While game temperatures were in the mid-20s, and not to the liking of the visitors from Texas, James Madison was red-hot in the teams' first-ever meeting, taking a 21-0 lead in just over 11 minutes of action and extending it to 35-0 within the first five minutes of the second quarter.
Sam Houston (12-1), top-ranked in the STATS FCS Top 25 to end the regular season, hardly resembled the team that entered the game No. 1 in the FCS in both points and yards per game. Jeremiah Briscoe, who had thrown for 4,459 yards and an FCS single-season record 57 touchdown passes, completed only 13 of 44 pass attempts for 143 yards, throwing two interceptions (Raven Greene and Curtis Oliver) in the third quarter. The junior also was called for intentional grounding in his end zone, resulting in a safety.
His JMU counterpart, Bryan Schor, threw for 236 of his 247 yards in the first half, with both a touchdown pass and run. Khalid Abdullah rushed for 145 yards and three touchdowns, and Trai Sharp gained 144 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as part of the Dukes' 607 total yards.
In the first quarter, Abdullah capped an early drive in which he gained 52 rushing yards by scoring from 14 yards out. Schor then completed a 64-yard pass to Domo Taylor to set up his 1-yard touchdown run. After a Sam Houston possession quickly stalled, Rashard Davis weaved his way for a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown -- his fourth of the season.
It was the first time Sam Houston hadn't scored in the first quarter since falling to Jacksonville State in last year's playoff semifinals. It only got worse when the Dukes' special teams delivered again early in the second quarter as Robert Carter Jr. blocked a punt and freshman Bryce Maginley scooped up the ball for a 20-yard touchdown return.
On their next drive, Schor hit tight end Jonathan Kloosterman for a 10-yard touchdown pass, making it 35-0 with 10:40 remaining in the second quarter.
It was exactly what Sam Houston had been doing to many opponents in the first half of games. Coach K.C. Keeler's Southland Conference champion was seeking the national semifinals for the fifth time in six seasons, but was stopped short ... way short.
James Madison hasn't lost to an FCS opponent, only to ACC member North Carolina. The Dukes will host their national semifinal if South Dakota State wins Saturday, otherwise they'll go on the road to face North Dakota State, the five-time reigning FCS champion.