CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- James Madison ran its way to its first
Division I-AA national championship.
Maurice Fenner had 164 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback
Justin Rascati also ran for two scores in a 31-21 victory over
Montana Grizzlies on Friday night. The Dukes rolled up 314 yards rushing en
route to their first national title.
"It was two great quarterbacks. The difference was we could run
it, and they couldn't," James Madison coach Mickey Matthews said.
Rascati ran for 57 yards on 11 carries, and Fenner had 29
The Dukes (13-2) were the first team to reach the title game by
winning all three playoff games on the road, advancing past the
second round for the first time.
The two-time champion Grizzlies (12-3), playing in their fifth
title game and led by Colorado transfer quarterback Craig Ochs,
took a 21-17 lead in the third quarter, but couldn't stop James
Madison's rushing attack.
Trailing by four points, James Madison responded with a 72-yard
drive -- all on the ground. Fenner capped the drive by pounding in
for a score from the 1, putting the Dukes ahead for good.
Montana missed a 31-yard field goal at the end of the third
quarter that would have tied the game, and the Dukes all but sealed
the title on their next drive.
Rascati scored on a 6-yard run one down after getting hit in the
head, a play that resulted in a roughing the passer penalty on
Montana's Kerry Mullan that gave James Madison a first down.
The Grizzlies had a chance to rally, but James Madison's Clint
Kent intercepted Ochs' pass with 6:17 remaining, and Montana was
unable to move the ball the rest of the game.
"It's a dream come true," said Rascati, who transferred from
Louisville after last season. "It's something I've always dreamed
of throwing in the backyard."
James Madison's fans threw yellow streamers and some even jumped
down from the stands onto the field to celebrate with the team as
the final seconds ticked off the clock. All stayed on the field
during a short fireworks show while security officials took down
the goal posts.
Montana appeared to be in control in the first quarter after
holding James Madison to 2 total yards on offense (minus-4 rushing,
and 6 passing). The Grizzlies' score on their opening drive was the
only touchdown James Madison allowed in the first quarter this
But the Dukes eventually got rolling on the ground.
"I think they decided they were going to do it," Montana coach
Bobby Hauck said. "They played a great game and deserved to win."
Montana was trying to win the school's third title, a
championship that would have provided a perfect ending to Ochs'
He transferred from Colorado in the middle of the 2002 season
after sustaining several concussions and having differences with
coach Gary Barnett.
Ochs struggled with some injuries last season, but had a
fabulous senior year. He finished 29 of 38 for a career-high 371
yards and three touchdowns.
"It's absolutely been a great year for us," Ochs said. "It's
a year I'll always remember."
It was James Madison's quarterback transfer who was the star of
Rascati was 13 of 18 for 132 yards.
Both teams complained about the poor field conditions. After the
first series, players started to kick up huge chunks of sod. At
times, players picked up the pieces of sod and threw them to the
side before the snap.
The field, which is used by the University of
Tennessee-Chattanooga, was re-sodded last month and had a sandy
"That is probably the worst field I've ever played on in all my
life," Rascati said.
Fenner and Alvin Banks rotated throughout the first part of the
season before both were injured and missed several games. Raymond
Hines filled in admirably, but he hurt his ribs in last week's win
over William & Mary and didn't play Friday.
Both of Fenner's touchdown runs were from 1 yard, the first
coming with 16 seconds left before halftime and giving James
Madison a 10-7 lead.
Rascati scored from 11 yards to extend the Dukes' lead after
halftime. Ochs threw touchdowns passes Levander Segars and Willie
Walden in the third quarter and had a 3-yard TD pass to Jefferson
Heidelberger on the opening drive.