The Central Connecticut football team played in front of the largest crowd in program history, and nearly silenced 25,102 James Madison fans on Saturday night. In the end the Blue Devils dropped a 14-9 decision to the nationally ranked Dukes. Senior running back Brian Fowler rushed for 93 yards in the loss.
James Madison was opening its newly renovated stadium, complete with 10,000 extra seats and the largest JumboTron in FCS football.
Sophomore Chris Tolbert rushed for the lone touchdown of the game for the Blue Devils, with under five seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
"We fought hard and I'm proud of our guys," head coach Jeff McInerney said. "We didn't come here to lose, to play for second. We came here to win and I'm proud of the way we represented our team and University. These guys are tough, and we fought to the end."
James Madison scored the only touchdown of the first half, a 28-yard pass from Justin Thorpe to Jon Sharp with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
JMU outgained the Blue Devils 206-52 in the half, including 159 yards on the ground.
The Central defense, however, intercepted a pair of Thorpe passes in the half, stopping a pair of Duke drives. The first came from sophomore Chris Linares in the first quarter on a long pass attempt.
The second came from freshman Tyrell Holmes, his second in two weeks, and stopped a potential scoring drive late in the second half. Holmes was the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week last week.
The Blue Devil defense came up big again in the third quarter, forcing another JMU turnover inside the five-yardline and not allowing them to build on a 7-3 lead.
"This is a tough team, and we showed that tonight," McInerney said. "This team we played tonight was fast, and this environment was great. We didn't look up into the crowd, we played within ourselves and made some plays when we had to. We just came up a little short."
Central's Juan Duque kicked a 35-yard field goal with 12:53 left in the fourth quarter to cut the JMU lead to 7-3. The field goal was the first of Duque's career.
The Blue Devils forced a fumble on the kickoff, and got the ball back in their own territory.
After taking the ball inside the 10, Central attempted a fake field goal on fourth down, but junior Lawton Arnold was stopped at the three and Central turned the ball over on downs.
"I made up my mind a long time before the play that we would try it if we had the opportunity," McInerney said. "Like I said, we didn't come here to lose. I'd make the call again if I had the chance."
JMU's Dae'Quan Scott scored the second touchdown of the game, making it 14-3 with 3:10 on the clock.
Central struck at the end of the game, with some clock confusion happening on the field. The referees kept the time on the field, and it was different than the game clock on the scoreboard.
While the game appeared to end, Central was granted one more offensive play, and Tolbert scored from three yards out to make it 14-9. Central would go for the two point conversion but it failed and the final score was 14-9.
Central rushed for 146 yards in the loss, 93 of them from Fowler. Senior quarterback Gunnar Jespersen finished the game 14-for-33 for 140 yards and a pair of interceptions. He also rushed 11 times for 41 yards.
Linares and Holmes each had an interception in the game. Lorenzo Baker led the defense with eight tackles, Antwione Reesed added seven. Senior Charles Williams had five tackles and a sack.