Screenshot from ESPN highlight video.
Another week, another countdown to the start of JMU football season. We’re now just 42 days away from the 2018 season. It feels far away, but with CAA Media Day later this week, we’re getting close to fall Saturdays. Before we look forward, let’s look back at the six best plays from JMU’s 2017-18 season.
6. Bryan Schor’s scramble vs. Delaware
Schor scrambled like a man possessed in the team’s 20-10 win over Delaware. You’d think that after a certain point, Delaware’s defensive linemen would’ve stopped buying the pump fakes. They didn’t. He paused and he faked and he bobbed and he danced and he juked. It was silly. While he didn’t pick up the first down, Schor had fans on the edge of their seats with this scramble drill.
5. Harry O’Kelly’s fake punt vs. New Hampshire
Yes, the fake punt against North Dakota State came in a bigger game, but the way O’Kelly turned around his defender against New Hampshire felt unfair and honestly, a tad rude. One moment you think you’re about to demolish a punter, the next moment you’re spinning around grasping for the breeze an Australian legend just left in his wake. O’Kelly finished with more rushing yards (30) for the game than UNH’s entire team (27).
4. Trai Sharp’s game-winning touchdown vs. Richmond
Last season, JMU’s offense seemed to go, “Oh s**t, we’re almost out of time. Let’s go win this thing.” This was evident in the team’s 20-13 win over Richmond.
With both defenses battling it out all game long, the Dukes operated their two-minute offense to perfection. They marched down the field behind the powerful rushing of Trai Sharp, and secured a win over a conference rival. Sharp tallied 54 rushing yards in the 71-yard drive, including the game-winning run from seven yards out.
3. Rashad Robinson’s interception vs. East Carolina
This interception in the end zone serves as an optical illusion. Robinson had his back to the receiver, but somehow managed to wrestle the ball away in what appeared to be a sure touchdown. Robinson came out of the scrum with the ball and a monster turnover in JMU’s opening week victory over the 2017-18 season.
2. Riley Stapleton’s game-tying touchdown reception vs. Weber State
This difficult catch, and perfect throw, helped keep JMU’s season alive. On third-and-9 late in the fourth quarter of the FCS quarterfinals, Schor fired a bomb down the left side, Stapleton reached above the outstretched arm of the Weber State defender and hauled in a touchdown to help the Dukes tie the game up. His reaction upon scoring the touchdown screams, “I’m a beast.”
Trai Sharp converted the two-point conversion on the next play to even things at 28.
1. Ethan Ratke’s game-winning field goal vs. Weber State
He entered the season as the backup kicker. He ended the FCS quarterfinals as the team’s hero. Ratke, who would look undersized on JMU’s golf team, stepped up in a pressure-packed situation and acted like he was practicing an extra point on an empty practice field in August. He was calm, cool and collected when nailing the 46-yard boot.
The play that ended JMU’s most thrilling game of the 2017-18 season takes the top spot in my list of top plays of the year.