RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It’s become familiar territory for James Madison and its fans come early January- playing for a national championship.
For one Saturday in January, Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, becomes the cathedral of FCS football and this time around, there will be plenty of purple in the congregation. Richmond has a large James Madison following, a good portion of which will make the trip down to Texas for Saturday’s showdown. This marks the Dukes’ third trip to the title game in the last four seasons and many of these fans have been on hand each and every time. But this time, there will be familiarity with the Frisco area.
“This year we’ve got everything lined up, everywhere that we’re going,” said JMU alumnus Barry Saadatmand. “All of our social activities are all walking distance, all in the JMU headquarters area.”
“The people in Frisco are very friendly. They’re excited to see us,” said fellow Duke graduate Zac Price. “We’ve been tailgating at the same bar for three championships now.”
“We have 400 people registered and paid for a tailgate that we’re putting together and getting catered by a local company,” added Saadatmand, a 1994 grad. “They told us that our order is bigger than the concession stand’s order for the stadium.”
Standing in JMU’s way is North Dakota State, which has established itself as an FCS powerhouse during the course of the decade. NDSU has won seven of the last eight national championships, meaning the path from Fargo to Frisco is a bit more worn than that from Harrisonburg. Thanks to a Dukes win over the Bison in the 2016 semifinals and North Dakota State revenge in the following national championship game, this match-up has grown into a rivalry, both on the field and in the seats.
“During game days we’re all on our phones checking North Dakota State’s score,” said 2004 JMU graduate Jonathan McNamara. “They flash up on the scoreboard and sometimes you might hear an audible groan from JMU fans.”
“You definitely feel the underdog,” noted Saadatmand. “It definitely makes you that much more hungry to shove it right back in their face.”
The 2010′s have no doubt been dominated by the Bison, but the fans headed down to support JMU this weekend home that a win can be the start of making the 2020′s the decade of the Dukes.
“A win in this game for me solidifies JMU’s state at the top of the level and gives us an opportunity just to expand on this in the years to come,” said McNamara.
“It really puts us at the same echelon as them,” Saadatmand said about what a win would mean. “Maybe not with the full decade of success, but the ability to show that year in and year out we can bring it.”
“Coming where we’ve come from, we need to appreciate the moments that we have now,” Price said. “This is the good times right now. It’s not going to get much better than this. Even if we keep on winning down the road, these are the best of times.”
James Madison and North Dakota State kick off at noon ET on Saturday. The Dukes enter with a 14-1 record, while the Bison are a perfect 15-0.
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