CONWAY, S.C. (AP) — James Madison coach Curt Cignetti is fully on board with his school’s plan for football, even if means the 24th-ranked Dukes won’t play for Sun Belt Conference title.
Jordan McCloud threw a career-high five touchdown passes — three to Elijah Sarratt — and Madison rebounded from its only loss to rout Coastal Carolina 56-14 on Saturday.
The Dukes (11-1, 7-1 Sun Belt) finished with the East Division’s top record, but they won’t be heading to play West winner Troy next Saturday as they continuing transitioning from the championship subdivision to FBS.
“James Madison is all about the leadership at the top. They’ve had a blueprint and a plan they’ve worked it a long time,” Cignetti said. “The sky is the limit for James Madison.”
James Madison was turned down twice by the NCAA in a bid for a waiver that would make them eligible for the league title game next week as East Division champions — and potentially a New Year’s Six bowl invite as the top Group of Five team.
But James Madison lost in overtime, 26-23, at home to Appalachian State a week ago. The school said in a statement earlier this week that loss “changed the landscape in terms of the nature and timing of our legal options, including the diminished viability of a lawsuit against the NCAA.”
“Hopefully, we get to play another,” Cignetti said.
That’s likely because James Madison would be the first tapped should there not be enough bowl-eligible teams this postseason.
McCloud’s final three TD passes came in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. The sixth-year player surpassed his old touchdown mark, which he tied three times previously this season. He was 26 of 35 for 324 yards and also ran for a score. Sarratt had six catches for 107 yards.
McCloud and the Dukes dismissed the off-the-field issues in pounding the Chanticleers (7-5, 5-3).
McCloud started the scoring with a 1-yard TD run, then connected with Reggie Brown for a 29-yard score. A pair of short rushing touchdowns by Sarratt and Ty Lawton, the latter just 38 seconds before halftime had the Dukes rolling with a 28-0 lead.
Coastal Carolina would have advanced to the league championship game with a win. Instead, the Chants stumbled badly in the regular-season finale and managed just 74 yards rushing.
James Madison: It was a strong response from the Dukes, who saw their undefeated run come to end a week ago at home against Appalachian State. James Madison is expected to get a bowl game.
Coastal Carolina: Chants fans got a stir when it was announced injured quarterback Grayson McCall would start and warmed up pre-game. But McCall, the three-time Sun Belt player of the year, didn’t get into the contest. He’s missed the past five games with a head injury.
SUN BELT STRONG
James Madison has had a strong showing in the Sun Belt since joining two seasons ago. The Dukes are a combined 19-4 overall and 13-3 against league opponents. They’ve also been ranked in the Top 25 in each of their FBS seasons.
Coastal Carolina receiver Sam Pinckney continued his NCAA record streak, catching a pass in his 57th straight game. He also broke the Sun Belt mark for career receiving yards held by T.Y. Hilton of Florida International from 2008-11.
James Madison: Likely headed for its first bowl game.
Coastal Carolina: Awaits bowl destination.
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