James Madison is heading back to the FCS Championship following a perfect regular season and playoff run. To get that second trophy in as many years they'll have to do what they did last year to get down to Frisco — knock off perennial champions North Dakota State.
Last year the Dukes went into the Fargodome and took down the five-time defending champions on their way to Frisco and a championship win over Youngstown State. This year, JMU will look to knock off the Bison in Frisco for another title.
The two teams hit the field in the semifinals last year, a game that took place more than a year ago, but a game that to this day remains relevant to the FCS landscape.
Yes, JMU's 2016 season had been impressive, and their run in the playoffs showed they belonged near the top of the FCS landscape. But the win in Fargo cemented the Dukes' status as one of the premiere programs in all of the FCS landscape.
That sentiment carried through when James Madison coach Mike Houston spoke to reporters during an FCS Championship game teleconference Thursday.
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When asked about what the Dukes could draw from that win in the Fargodome, Houston said the two biggest takeaways to this day are respect for their championship opponent and the confidence that they belong on the same stage.
"I think number one is certainly a respect for the level of program that North Dakota State is," Houston said on the teleconference. "They've been the top team in FCS for many years, and I think that after that match-up last year I'm sure that all the coaches just like me and all the players come away with a tremendous amount of respect just for the way they play and the level of program that they are."
"Probably the second thing we bring out of that is the confidence that our program is at that level as well," he added. "So I think those are probably the two biggest things that we took out of that game."