CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Many of Virginia’s players said before the season that they returned for this season to honor the lives of three teammates who were fatally shot last November. The results, they said, would not be as important as the way they stayed together and played hard and united.
James Madison surely challenged that theory on Saturday.
Jordan McCloud hit Kaelon Black with a 10-yard tuchdown pass with 55 seconds to play, capping a fourth-quarter rally and the Dukes beat Virginia 36-35, spoiling the Cavaliers’ first home game in the 10 months since their three teammates were taken from them too soon.
“This one hurts and it’s going to hurt for a while,” Virginia coach Tony Elliott said. “We’ve got a football team in there that battled really, really, really hard for the last 10 months to get to this point.”
The Cavaliers (0-2), who fell behind 14-0 quickly, stayed true to their pledge to play to honor the legacy of those teammates and rallied behind freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea. He threw for 377 yards and two long touchdowns in his first start, and Mike Hollins, one of two people who survived the shootings, and Clemson transfer Kobe Pace each scored twice.
Of Hollins, Elliott said, “he’s a walking miracle.”
When the skies opened with lightning nearby and the stadium was cleared, ony 12:06 remained and many decked out in “UVA STRONG” orange t-shirts headed for home. That left a sizeable James Madison following that assisted on the two 80-yard drives that won it.
“I thought the break had the potential to help us being down. We could make a few adjustments, but also kind of fix what was going on between their ears” Dukes coach Curt Cignetti said.
Virginia could have handled it better, Pace said.
“The fans played a big part but, as a team, that’s when we have to step up and stay level-headed, just keepworking, just keep pushing out of those situations,” he said.
Playing Virginia for the first time in 40 years despite being just 58 miles away, the Dukes (2-0) trailed 35-24 when play was suspended, but had the ball at their 20 when play resumed.
Ty Son Lawton capped that eight-play drive with a 27-yard run to make it 35-30. JMU’s 2-point conversion try failed, but Virginia’s ensuing drive stalled at the Dukes’ 43, and after the punt was nearly stopped at the 1-inch line, JMU took over and drove again. A roughing the passer call and defensive pass interference call aided their winning march, which ended when Jordan McCloud found Kaelon Black all alone on the left side for an easy score.
The Dukes used the trickery of a wide receiver pass to go ahead 7-0 on their opening drive, then got a break when Virginia was called for holding to negate a 76-yard run by Perris Jones on the Cavaliers’ first play. Another holding call and a sack by Jalen Green pinned Virginia at its 8, and Daniel Sparks’ punt was blocked in the end zone by Aiden Fisher and recovered for a touchdown by D’Angelo Ponds. After just 7:47, the Cavaliers trailed 14-0.
Colandrea brought them back two plays later with a mid-range pass to Malik Washington, who juked defenders and changed directions on a 63-yard pass play that made it 14-7. Colandrea hit Pace streaking down the field for a 75-yard score to start the second half.
James Madison: The Dukes may have gotten a bad deal on an apparent fumble by Pace on the Cavaliers’ fifth scoring drive. Pace appeared to lose the ball at the JMU 9, but a lengthy replay was not sufficient to overturn the ruling and Hollins scored on the next play.
Virginia: Starting QB Tony Muskett warmed up before the game, but was in shorts and no pads when he came back out. Muskett injured his non-throwing shoulder taking a sack last weekend aganst No. 9 Tennessee but likely won’t have to win his job back.
“My approach is that you don’t lose your job for an injury, right? But it gives us a tremendous amount of confidence, you know, in Colandrea and we’ll assess Tony, see where he is today. He was available in an emergency situation. So I anticipate that by the time we get ready to roll out next week, he should be back, ready to go.”