JMU storms back after delay; spoils UVA home opener, 36-35

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo by Michael Bruder

Football officially returned to Scott Stadium on Saturday, complete with a touching pregame ceremony, a long weather delay, and best of all, an exciting, back-and-forth contest that came down to the final minute.

For the Virginia fans who stuck it out during an hour-plus weather delay, however, the end result was not what they had hoped for. James Madison rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter and walked out with a thrilling, 36-35 win in front of 56,508 rowdy fans.

UVA first-year quarterback Anthony Colandrea, playing in just his second college football game, set a new program passing record for a freshman, finishing his first start completing 20 of his 26 passes for 377 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Cavalier run game was not nearly as successful, registering just 18 net yards on the afternoon, but the UVA backs found the end zone three times (four, if you count Kobe Pace’s receiving score), with the latter by superhero Mike Hollins giving the Wahoos (0-2) a 35-24 advantage with 1:51 left in the third quarter.

With just more than 12 minutes to play, the skies opened up and the stadium was emptied for over an hour, with play finally resuming at around 4:10 p.m. Whatever JMU head coach Curt Cignetti said to his troops during the delay seemed to do the trick, as the Dukes (2-0) put together two scoring drives over the final 8:34 — the go-ahead TD coming with 55 ticks showing — to sneak out of Charlottesville with the victory.

On a day when fallen teammates Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry were honored, remembered and celebrated, shooting survivor Hollins led the Hoos with 28 yards and two touchdowns, but it ultimately wasn’t enough. Virginia coach Tony Elliott wasn’t as concerned with the final score as much as how much his team can continue to rally around their legacy.

“I still believe in tragedy and triumph,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t care what the scoreboard is, no one’s gonna change my mind. Even if we don’t win another game, that’s not going to change. And that’s where we’re headed as a program, and that’s my challenge to everybody. Because when we all have that same mindset, then we’re going to be able to do something very, very, very beautiful. And it won’t be relative to the scoreboard. It’ll be relative to the impact that we make on a daily basis.”

Northwestern transfer receiver Malik Washington had a huge day, racking up 119 yards and a score on just five catches, but JMU had the last laugh as the Cavaliers continue to look for answers heading into a short week.


The Dukes came out firing, putting up a 14-0 lead after a 9-play march on the game’s opening drive which resulted in a 4-yard strike on a double-toss from quarterback Jordan McCloud to Taji Hudson to Phoenix Sproles.

After holding Virginia to a three-and-out, JMU blocked a Daniel Sparks punt on the ensuing drive and recovered in the end zone, and UVA found itself in a two-score deficit less than eight minutes into the contest.

Colandrea, subbing in for injured starter Tony Muskett, had an answer, hitting Washington just over a minute later for a 63-yard connection down the home sideline. Washington was able to make a few moves after the catch, and trotted into the end zone for his first touchdown as a Cavalier with 6:06 on the clock.

“I think we’re a really explosive offense,” said Washington. “We talk about being a fit offense — fast, intelligent and tough — and so today we really wanted to showcase that. Having those points go up on the first play of the game is exciting for us. Making those different plays is just showing our DNA and who we are as an offense.”

The UVA defense was able to limit the Dukes to a 38-yard Camden Wise field goal on the ensuing drive, and it was a 10-point affair heading into the second quarter.


Photo by Michael Bruder

The two sides exchanged punts over the following six possessions until Virginia struck again and concluded the opening half with a ton of momentum.

Starting at their own 34 with 3:12 left in the half, the Wahoos missed on a deep ball to Demick Starling — Colandrea’s lone incompletion of the first 30 minutes — before Perris Jones lost 4 yards, forcing a third-and-long.

Colandrea hooked up with Malachi Fields for 15 yards and a much-needed first down, then hit JR Wilson for 32 more on the next snap, leading the Cavaliers down inside the Dukes’ 25-yard line.

After three more consecutive completions, Colandrea handed off to Hollins, who took it in for what had to be an extremely gratifying, emotional moment for the sixth-year Baton Rouge native, considering all he’s been through since November.

Hollins’ 4-yard plunge trimmed the JMU lead to just three, 17-14, with 1:02 on the clock.

UVA posted just 7 rushing yards in the half, but Colandrea was a near-perfect 11 for 12 for 172 yards and a score, and the Hoos went into the locker room on a high note.


After deferring in the first half, UVA received the second-half kickoff, and it didn’t take long for Colandrea to give the Cavaliers their first lead of the season.

The St. Petersburg, Fla., native found Pace over the middle, and the Clemson transfer did the rest, out-hustling the Dukes’ defenders en route to a career-long, 75-yard touchdown strike just 11 seconds in, and the home fans celebrated a 21-17 edge.

A little over four minutes later, Pace found pay dirt for a second time in the opening five minutes of the period, this time on a 3-yard carry, and Will Bettridge’s extra point gave the Hoos a 28-17 lead with 10:29 on the clock.

Ty Son Lawton, who led JMU with 79 all-purpose yards (all via the rush), capped a 6-play, 45-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to trim the Wahoo lead to 28-24 with 2:07 showing.

UVA answered right back, as Jones hauled in a 60-yard reception to put the Cavaliers in striking distance. Two plays later, Hollins scored again from 9 yards out, and with 16 ticks left in the third, Virginia had pushed its lead back to double-digits, 35-24.


The Cavalier defense came away with a third-down stop on the second play of the quarter to force another JMU punt, the Dukes’ sixth of the day.

Colandrea was sacked on UVA’s ensuing third-down conversion, as Sparks came on for his seventh boot of the afternoon, this one traveling 69 yards, just missing pinning the visitors deep inside their own 5.

As the teams headed back to the sidelines during the break in the action with 12:06 remaining, Mother Nature made her presence felt with a quick downpour that included lightning strikes, and the stadium was evacuated for a total of around 70 minutes.

Photo by Michael Bruder

When play resumed, it was all Dukes from there. On a crucial third-and-1 from midfield, Latrele Palmer went for 9 yards to move the chains. Lawton followed that up with another first-down run before breaking free for a 27-yard TD run with 8:34 to go. McCloud’s two-point pass attempt to get the Dukes within a field goal fell incomplete, and UVA clung to a five-point lead.

After a Virginia punt, JMU got it back at its own 20 with 3:27 on the clock. McCloud quickly worked the ball to midfield before a UVA personal-foul penalty moved it to the Cavaliers’ 35-yard line with just over two minutes left.

On a critical third-and-5 from the 30, Jonas Sanker was flagged for pass interference, giving JMU another first down at the 15. Coen King smacked away a pass into the end zone on second down with exactly a minute remaining, setting up another huge third-down try.

McCloud dropped back, looked to his left and found Kaelon Black all alone on the visitors’ sideline for the game-clinching, 10-yard touchdown pass. UVA’s Dave Herard was able to get a hand on the ensuing two-point conversion and knock it away, leaving the Hoos with a one-point deficit with 55 ticks showing.

Colandrea was dropped for a 10-yard loss on first down, and couldn’t connect with his receivers on the final three offensive plays of the contest, and JMU took over with 26 seconds left and began to celebrate its second win over Virginia in school history (1982).

“I am really proud of our team and the way they bounced back after the break,” said Cignetti. “I thought the break had the potential to help us being down, we could make a few adjustments, but also kind of fix what was going on between their ears. Whereas maybe Virginia with that two-score lead, maybe felt a little bit of relief. But regardless, our guys made the plays. I am proud of them. It was a game of momentum swings, and it’s a great win.”

Game Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • Announced attendance at Scott Stadium was 56,508, the largest crowd for a home opener since 2015 against Notre Dame (58,200).
  • UVA scored on touchdowns of 63 and 75 yards in the contest. The last time UVA had two touchdowns of 60 or more yards in a game was on Nov. 21, 2020 against Abilene Christian. UVA scored four times from 60-plus against ACU including a 90-yard TD reception by Lavel Davis Jr. and an 84-yard interception return by D’Sean Perry.
  • Saturday marked the 500th game at Scott Stadium. UVA is 283-205-12 all-time at the facility. The first game of at Scott Stadium was on Oct. 15, 1931.
  • JMU snapped UVA’s five-game win streak in home openers. UVA drops to 60-26-5 and loses its first home opener since 2016 (Richmond).
  • The UVA loss is only the third at home in the month of September since the start of the 2017 season.
  • Virginia and James Madison squared off for the first time since 1983. UVA is 2-2 all-time against the Dukes.
  • The game endured a one hour, 10-minute weather delay at the 12:06 mark of the fourth quarter.

Team Notes

  • Running back Mike Hollins rushed for two touchdowns in the contest, matching a career-best previously set against William & Mary in 2019. He scored on a four-yard rush with 1:02 remaining in the first half and again with 16 seconds left in the third quarter to put UVA up by two scores. It was his first touchdown since scoring against ODU (9/17) last season. He finished the game with 28 yards rushing on 12 carries.
  • Perris Jones caught two passes for a career-high 68 yards. His 60-yard reception in the third quarter helped set up UVA’s fourth touchdown of the day.
  • Running back Kobe Pace scored twice in the contest, first on a 75-yard touchdown reception and again on a three-yard rush with 10:29 left in the third quarter.
  • In his 42nd career game, Malik Washington recorded his first 100-yard receiving effort. He caught five passes for 119 yards, the first UVA 100-yard receiver since Keytaon Thompson vs. ODU last season.
  • Daniel Sparks punted six times for a total of 281 yards including two punts over 50 yards. His 69-yard punt in the fourth quarter was his seventh punt of 60 or more yards in his career. He has a 60-yard punt in three consecutive games dating back to last season.
  • Jonas Sanker led UVA with a career-high 12 tackles and combined for a tackle for loss.

Game Stats

Scoring Summary
JMU        17  0   7 12 — 36
Virginia    7   7  21  0 — 35

First Quarter
JMU (9:59) — Sproles 4-yd pass from Hudson (Wise kick). JMU 7, UVA 0.
JMU (7:13) — Ponds 0-yd blocked punt return (Wise kick). JMU 14, UVA 0.
UVA (6:06) — Washington 63-yd pass from Colandrea (Bettridge kick). JMU 14, UVA 7.
JMU (3:01) — Wise 38-yd field goal. JMU 17, UVA 7.

Second Quarter
UVA (1:02) — Hollins 4-yd rush (Bettridge kick). JMU 17, UVA 14.

Third Quarter
UVA (14:49) — Pace 75-yd pass from Colandrea (Bettridge kick). UVA 21, JMU 17.
UVA (10:29) — Pace 3-yd rush (Bettridge kick). UVA 28, JMU 17.
JMU (2:07) — Lawton 4-yd rush (Wise kick). UVA 28, JMU 24.
UVA (0:16) — Hollins 9-yd rush (Bettridge kick). UVA 35, JMU 24.

Fourth Quarter
JMU (8:34) — Lawton 27-yd rush (pass failed). UVA 35, JMU 30.
JMU (0:55) — Black 10-yd pass from McCloud (pass failed). JMU 36, UVA 35.

Player Stats

JMU: Ty Son Lawton 8-79; Jordan McCloud 6-32; Latrele Palmer 6-30; Kaelon Black 12-25; Omarion Dollison 1-3; TEAM 1-(minus-2). TOTAL — 34-167.
UVA: Mike Hollins 12-28; Perris Jones 10-11; Kobe Pace 6-9; Anthony Colandrea 7-(minus-30). TOTAL — 35-18.

JMU: Phoenix Sproles 7-40; Taji Hudson 4-46; Reggie Brown 3-60; Kaelon Black 3-18; Elijah Sarratt 2-52; Zach Horton 2-12. TOTAL — 21-228.
UVA: Malachi Fields 8-74; Malik Washington 5-119; Perris Jones 2-68; Suderian Harrison 2-5; Kobe Pace 1-75; JR Wilson 1-32; Grant Misch 1-4. TOTAL — 20-377.

JMU: Jordan McCloud 20-31-224-1-0; Taji Hudson 1-1-4-1-0. TOTAL — 21-32-228-2-0.
UVA: Anthony Colandrea 20-26-377-2-1. TOTAL — 20-26-377-2-1.


The Cavaliers will renew another old rivalry with a trip to College Park against Maryland on Friday night (7 p.m., FS1).