JMU manhandles ODU, crushes bowl hopes in handing Monarchs a fourth consecutive loss in final home game

It became apparent pretty early Saturday that Old Dominion wasn’t likely to play in a bowl game this season.

By the end of the third quarter, fans could start making their holiday plans with confidence.

Todd Centeio passed for 304 yards and James Madison took full ownership of a burgeoning football rivalry with a convincing 37-3 win over hapless ODU at sold-out S.B. Ballard Stadium.

The loss was the fourth straight for the reeling Monarchs (3-7, 2-4 Sun Belt), whose last victory was a baffling 49-21 rout at Sun Belt Conference power Coastal Carolina on Oct. 15. Saturday’s setback guaranteed ODU a losing record this season.

After painting themselves into a corner, the Monarchs needed to win their final three regular-season games to reach the postseason for a second straight year.

JMU used 15 big plays – defined as runs of 10 or more yards and passes of at least 15 – and converted 7 of 12 on third down to render the goal moot.

The Dukes (6-3, 4-2) remain in contention for a Sun Belt East title. Because it’s their first year as a Football Bowl Subdivision program, they’re not eligible for a bowl game until next season.

The Monarchs haven’t scored a touchdown since the second quarter of a 31-17 loss at Georgia State on Oct. 29, a span of 10 fruitless quarters.

ODU linebacker Jason Henderson, who leads the nation in tackles, finished with 18 to break the Sun Belt single-season record. He now has 166 tackles.

Even when things went right for the Monarchs, they went wrong. After R’Tarriun Johnson played a lucky hunch and picked off a Centeio pass to give ODU a hint of momentum early in the third quarter, Johnson fumbled the ball back to the Dukes during the return.

A promising fourth-quarter drive died on JMU’s 9-yard line when a reception was ripped out of the hands of receiver Javon Harvey by the Dukes’ Devyn Coles.

ODU played without star receiver Ali Jennings, who was out with an unspecified injury. Zack Kuntz, who left an Oct. 1 game against Liberty with an apparent right knee injury, was pronounced out for the season on Oct. 31.

JMU went ahead 37-3 on Kaelon Black’s 1-yard scoring run with 5:47 left in the game. It finished off a 13-play, 91-yard drive that consumed nearly eight minutes and served to prove that the Dukes could do pretty much whatever they wanted on offense.

Reserve quarterback Brendon Clark, a sophomore who transferred from Notre Dame, saw his first action in an ODU uniform in the fourth quarter. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 37 yards and a late interception.

After visiting Appalachian State next week, ODU will finish its season at South Alabama on Nov. 26.

David Hall, david.hall@pilotonlline.com