HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) — Jordan McCloud threw for a career-high 457 yards and four touchdowns and No. 21 James Madison overcame a slow start and beat Connecticut 44-6 on Saturday, the Dukes' 13th consecutive win dating to last season.
McCloud connected with Reggie Brown on scoring throws of 80 and 55 yards, Zach Horton from 21 yards and Phoenix Sproles from 5 yards as the Dukes (10-0) pulled away after leading just 10-3 at halftime.
The Huskies (1-9) lost their fourth straight and third this season to a ranked team.
McCloud finished 33 for 37 while going over 400 passing yards for the third time this season. Elijah Sarratt caught 13 passes for 160 yards and Brown caught nine for 202, the first receiver in school history to go over 200 yards in a game.
In a season that coach Curt Cignetti hoped would prove to be special, McCloud and the Dukes have made it so and could well have a school record for highest ranking when the new Top 25 comes out. Not bad in just their second season.
“This has been a special year. You know, you try to take a moment to kind of reflect and take it all in. This is the night you do that — 24 hour rule — and then you’re back to work on Sunday, full steam ahead on the next challenge,” he said.
Huskies coach Jim Mora, in his second season, had no such issue.
“These are tough ones, you know, to come up with something to say. And sometimes after the game's not always the best time to give them like a big message, you know, because it gets lost in the moment,” he said.
The second half was especially disappointing when UConn was outscored 31-3.
McCloud's first three TD throws came on drives that took one play, four plays and five plays. The Dukes also had a score without running an offensive play from scrimmage when Brent Austin intercepted a pass and returned it 81 yards late.
UConn: At 1-8, the Huskies had little to lose by pulling out some tricks, but their first one didn't work, though it could have been worse. Facing fourth and 5 at their 40, they tried a fake punt with the ball snapped to running back Victor Rosa, who was stopped a yard short of the first down. The only consolation for the Huskies was that presented with a short field, the Dukes settled for a 29-yard field goal. JMU kicked another after recovering a fumble at the UConn 33 after halftime.
James Madison: The Dukes started as though they weren't ready. McCloud, coming off a six-touchdown game last week in a 42-14 win at Georgia State, fumbled on the first play and center Tanner Morris recovered. McCloud later was called for intentional grounding under pressure, then sacked for a 12-yard loss on the next play.
“I would say that we did come out maybe just a little bit lackadaisical,” McCloud said. “You know, we came to the sideline, talked about it, and I think from that point on, we just kept going.”
Dukes free safety Que Reid was called for targeting against Cam Ross for a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked Ross from the game. Cignetti said he thought the call right in front of the JMU bench “could have gone either way.”
Mora said Ross “seemed very fine, but he’s not fine” and said he will err on the side of caution and wait for doctors to clear him to play before allowing him to return.
Connecticut plays at home for the first time in a month Saturday against Sacred Heart.
The Dukes remain at home and faces Appalachian State on Saturday, when they will also host ESPN's “College GameDay.”
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