Under heavy pressure on fourth down, Dukes quarterback Bryan Schor heaved a high-arcing pass to the North Dakota State goal line, but the ball was knocked to the ground.
A perfectly executed fake punt on 4th and 9 put James Madison in prime position to complete a comeback in the fourth quarter against North Dakota State.
The Bison (14-1) made it six championships in the last seven years and tied Georgia Southern for the most titles in FCS history.
The Dukes and Bison will play for the FCS National Championship on Saturday at 12 PM Eastern in Frisco, Texas. "That's everything that we work for and all those workouts, all that extra stuff we do in the offseason, it's for this moment and for this stage". D'Angelo Amos' 33-yard punt return, his second big return of the day, set JMU up nicely at the Bison 33-yard line. "But they deserve to hoist that trophy out there".
NDSU - Bruce Anderson had 18 carries for 63 yards and 1 touchdown. On 3rd-and-17 at midfield, Shepherd slipped behind the James Madison secondary and Stick lofted a pass to him at the 10, which Shepherd turned into his first touchdown of the season and a 14-3 Bison lead with 4:14 left.
JMU - Marcus Marshall has 11 carries for 30 yards and 1 touchdown.
Turnovers and key mistakes played a factor in the first half, with NDSU getting a pair of touchdowns after a roughing-the-punter penalty and a rare interception by a Bison defensive tackle.
JMU head coach Mike Houston says, "There are great players individually on both sides of the football, but I think the thing that stands out is that both units play so well together.I think it's going to be hard-hitting, extremely physical, and probably in the teens".
It's not quite as cold as it was a year ago in Texas, as the temperatures were in the high 40's on Thursday, and it's expected to be in the mid-50's on Saturday for the FCS national championship game.
James Madison: This will be a tough one for Houston and company.
JMU - Riley Stapleton had 7 catches for 107 yards. The Duke were at NDSU's 21 on their next chance, but Schor threw his second interception.
They saved the best for last in the FCS this season. Based on point differential, NDSU would be expected to win over 95 percent of their games according to Pythagorean Win Expectation (PWE), a metric that tells how many wins a team should have based on how many points they've scored and allowed. JMU's defense matched NDSU with a three-and-out of their own, including a six-yard sack by redshirt junior defensive lineman Darrious Carter. The Bison will have to replace DeLuca, the spiritual and statistical leader of the defense and a possible National Football League pick. The 2018 opener is against FBS North Carolina State, which is coming off a nine-win season plus a Sun Bowl victory. Seven senior starters are listed on defense.