April 21, 2024

HARRISONBURG, Va. — Kaedin Robinson barely broke the goal line with the football before it squirted out of his hands, scoring the winning touchdown in overtime as Appalachian State beat unbeaten and 18th-ranked James Madison 26-23 on Saturday.

James Madison (10-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) jumped ahead in overtime when Camden Wise booted a 25-yard field goal, giving the Dukes a 23-20 lead. But on third down from the 8-yard line, Appalachian State’s Joey Aguilar tossed a strike to Robinson, who made the catch at the 5 and broke two tackles before stepping on the goal line for the winning TD and then losing control of the ball.

A video review upheld the call and James Madison’s 13-game winning streak ended, a disappointing finish to a big day in Harrisonburg.

JMU hosted ESPN’s “College GameDay” and it became a commercial for the Dukes’ odd postseason predicament.

Earlier in the week, JMU had its appeal for a postseason waiver denied by the NCAA. The Virginia attorney general hired a law firm that is arguing for JMU’s inclusion in bowl consideration based on the Dukes’ record, national ranking and success in its two-year process reclassifying from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Bowl Subdivision, the game’s top tier.

Teams in transition are not permitted to play for their conference championship or appear in a bowl, but JMU could reach the postseason if there are not enough bowl-eligible teams.

Without a loss, the Dukes were hoping to be considered for a New Year’s Six bowl and to play for a Sun Belt title.

Robinson finished with four catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns. Aguilar was 28-for-46 passing for 318 yards and three touchdowns with an interception for Appalachian State (7-4, 5-2), which kept it’s Sun Belt East hopes alive.

“It’s a big win for our program against a ranked football team in James Madison,” Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark said. “I was very proud of everyone involved. This was not an upset. This was the next game on our schedule. I think it shows you things still go through Boone, North Carolina, and we’re not backing down from them.”

Clark added: “You have to give credit to James Madison, they have one of the best defenses in the country. They are first in yards rushing per game, and we knew that. So we wanted to protect the quarterback and let Joey go through his progressions. Joey played a great game and our backs ran well enough to move the sticks, but Joey and our receivers had an excellent game”

Jordan McCloud was 27-of-46 passing for 276 yards with a TD and interception for JMU. Elijah Sarratt had eight catches — including two that helped force overtime — for 128 yards and a touchdown for James Madison.

“Give our guys a lot of credit, coming back the way they did and forcing overtime. They made some sensational plays on that last drive,” JMU coach Curt Cignetti said. “But they played better in overtime than we did. It wasn’t that the plays weren’t there, we just didn’t execute them and they executed theirs.”

App State built up a 20-5 second-half lead when Aguilar found Eli Wilson for a 16-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.

James Madison’s offense finally came alive. McCloud capped a 16-play 75-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run as the Dukes closed within 17-12 with 8:20 left.

Aguilar was clutch on the ensuing drive, moving the chains each time it appeared JMU was poised to get the ball back. The Mountaineers added another field goal with 3:55 remaining.

McCloud completed a pass to Sarratt on 4th-and-18 to keep JMU’s hopes alive and then the pair hooked up for a TD on the next play as JMU moved within two points with 0:57 left in the fourth.

McCloud hit Sarratt — who made a great catch in the back of the end zone — on a 2-pointer that tied the score at 20.

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