By Terence Thomas
CAA Today Columnist
If you’ve ever listened to a Post Game Press conference, you may have heard a coach refer to his team’s execution or team/individual discipline.
During the preseason, and the week prior to a game, teams repeatedly go over plays, and responsibilities given a certain set of circumstances.
On game day, all players are expected to know what to do when a given set of circumstances manifest in front of that player.
The coordinators (offensive, defensive, and special teams) will choreograph what they want the players to do. The position coaches will teach the mechanics of how to execute a given play. Discipline is remembering to execute said responsibilities when those circumstances present themselves.
Last weekend, all of the coordinators of their respective team had a “Game Plan” of how they were going to attack their opponent.
Some of the teams executed those game plans perfectly.
Some teams were able to execute for a half.
Some teams adjusted their initial game plan to what transpired on the field in the first half.
Some teams lost their discipline some time from the opening kickoff until the final whistle.
I received an email from Seth Finck, a William & Mary alumnus, stating he was glad that I was back on the CAA trail, and he asked if I thought this year was the best the CAA has been top to bottom.
My response to Mr. Finck was that I did not think this year’s teams were the best the CAA has had.
I thought the 09 Tribe, Spiders, and Villanova Wildcats were stronger in all facets of their respective teams. However, I do think that from top to bottom, the 2010 CAA is more competitive.
The gap between the top team and the bottom team is a lot closer. Also, with the loss of Hofstra and Northeastern, all teams play each other, save one. This translates in having very good quality games on every Saturday of conference play.
What has and will separate the winners from the losers is the execution of the game plan set before the players.
When a block is missed, a running back does not run through the correct hole, a receiver does not make the right read, or run through his route, or a quarterback fails to notice the defense and adjust accordingly, these are all discipline issues that lead to the failure of a play.
On the defensive side, when a tackle is missed, the wrong angle is taken to fill a gap, defeat a block, or make a tackle, when coverage is blown, these are all areas where a player lost his discipline and did not execute.
There are 11 links to any given play, and when one link breaks down, the entire team becomes weakened, and the play may fail due to poor execution. When all links work as planned, it’s the most beautiful thing to watch and listen too.
If classical music is your preference, a well executed play will sound like philharmonic orchestra. If mechanization is your preference, then you will liken it to a fine watch or the purr of a high powered engine.
As we’ve reached the half way point of our season, watch for the execution and team discipline as you follow your favorite team the rest of the way. There you will see the story within the story of the game.
For the remainder of the season, I will rate the teams within the CAA as “CONTENDERS”, “ON THE BUBBLE”, and “CONTENDERS NO MORE”.
Again, this group is very close top to bottom, that it is difficult to find any separation room. However, it is this humble writer’s opinion that Delaware, William & Mary, Massachusetts, and Villanova control their own destiny.
The magic number is 8 Division one wins will get you into the playoffs. Seven may get you in, but it’s not a sure thing.
Delaware is two wins away from that magic number with games remaining at W&M, home against Towson, at UMass, and they end the season home against Nova.
The Tribe is three wins away with their remaining games home against UD, at UNC, at UNH, at JMU, and they end the regular season home to UR.
UMass and Nova both need four each. Nova and UMass will need to win their remaining home games (Nova has three, UMass has two left), and they must find a way to win on the road. UMass has the following teams left on their schedule, visiting UNH in Foxboro, MA., at JMU, vs Maine, vs. UD, and the end the season at URI.
Teams Nova has left to play are home vs JMU, vs. UR, at URI, vs UNH, at UD.
ON THE BUBBLE
Mathematically, New Hampshire, James Madison, and Richmond are still alive, but UNH will have to win out to get to that magic number of eight, and they still have UMass, William & Mary, at Nova, and home to Towson left on their schedule.
JMU had a wonderful win at Virginia Tech, but this team has been depleted by injuries to the point, that their coach, Mickey Matthews stated it will be difficult going forward to find defensive linemen to play.
Richmond coach Latrell Scott is pulling out miracles with his Spiders, but they’re running with their fourth-string quarterback, and it’s just a matter of time before the Spiders very good defense runs out of gas as they take on the top tier teams in the CAA.
CONTENDERS NO MORE
Rhode Island is mathematically alive and could reach 7 wins if they win out. I am sure Rhody will put up the good fight and take a bite of a team or two down the stretch, but the tide is too strong and URI will get overwhelmed by one if not more of their remaining opponents. Maine and Towson will look to go 1–0 each Saturday as they try and get valuable game experience for their young players, and their Seniors will look to end their college careers battling for pride and victory, knowing that they gave the good fight.
Richmond 11, Massachusetts 10
At McGuirk Stadium, 16,421 fans, the 14th largest crowd in McGuirk history came out for homecoming to see their Massachusetts Minuteman host the Richmond Spiders.
The Minutemen had won their previous two games on the road, and were coming off of their bye week ranked 8th in the polls and sitting on a 4–1 record. Massachusetts coach Kevin Morris had to be thinking “the game plan is simple, play UMass football, and we will win this game”.
Richmond was shut out in their previous game in New Hampshire, where the wind made it difficult to throw or kick for two quarters, and was forced to play with their third string quarterback in that contest.
The Spiders traveled back to New England for this game, has to suit up their fourth-string quarterback, freshman, Montel White (Surry County, Va) to start for them, and deal with a wind just as nasty as the week before. Prior to the opening kickoff, this appeared to be the tale of two teams going in different directions, but that's why they play the games.
The final score was 11–10 Richmond, and at first blush, you would think that it was a defensive battle.
If you’re looking at the game from a Spider perspective you’d be half right. If you’re looking at the game from the UMass perspective, you would come away thinking that the Spiders defense is good, but you’d also have some questions about your own team’s ability to execute and maintain discipline on the field.
The first score of the game came by way of a safety as UMass had a fourth and 14 from their own seven yard line. The snap flew over the punter’s head giving the Spiders a 2–0 lead.
This occurred near the 12-minute mark of the first quarter, so you could say it was early in the game, and could chalk it up to opening game jitters.
On the ensuing free kick, UMass executed an onside kick perfectly, and recover the ball. Quarterback Kyle Havens led the team on a six-play 20 yard drive to the Spider 22. With a fourth and three, UMass elected to kick a field goal, but missed wide right.
On their first possession of the second quarter, Havens took his team 52 yards in 13 plays, completing a seven-yard TD pass to tight end Andrew Krevis (Northbridge, Ma) to take a 7–2 lead. It took UMass five possessions to put points on the scoreboard.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, facing a stiff wind, and starting a freshman at QB, who up until last week had been participating on the scout team, Richmond had come up with a game plan to just run the ball, and hope its defense could keep them in the game.
UR did not throw a pass in the first half and had 37 total net yards. Late in the third quarter Richmond would score again after a blindsided sack by team captain and defensive leader linebacker Eric McBride gave the ball Spiders the ball on the UMass 23. Four plays later, kicker Will Kamin made a 33 yard field goal to cut the lead to 7–5.
It should also be noted that White, did throw one pass earlier in the quarter that fell incomplete. Sticking to the game plan, the Spiders continued to run the ball until 1:51 remained in the fourth quarter.
Getting back to discussing the Minuteman, the reason I stated that lack of execution and team discipline played havoc with the UMass offense all day is because of the following.
Throughout the course of this game, UMass had 14 possessions. On five of them, UMass punted. UMass scored on two, a TD and a FG. The other seven possessions ended in a safety, missed field goal, three turnovers, a loss of the ball on downs, and the end of the game.
As for those five punts, there were events that did not go well in those drives either. Overall, it was just not a good day for the Massachusetts Minutemen.
UMass extended its lead to 10–5 on a 25 yard field by Caleb Violette with less than two minutes left. But a kickoff out of bounds gave the Spiders the ball at their own 40.
With 1:51 remaining in the game, Richmond head coach Latrell Scott was forced to let White throw the ball.
White took the team 60 yards in eight plays, rushing for 10 yards himself, and passing five straight times, completing four for 43 yards, and one 15-yard TD completion to Trey Gray, who was running a post route.
The Spiders' try for two was unsuccessful, but they had the lead, 11–10, leaving UMass with nine seconds on the clock.
The last UMass attempt at a score fell incomplete as the Sun set on them and what was a beautiful fall day in New England.
The following are two excerpts from emails I’ve received from fans and alumni from each team. The first is from Larry Sheedy, a UMass alumnus;
“Richmond's defense played very, very well. Anyone who knew anything about them knew they'd be led by their big 3 of LB McBride, DL Parker and CB Rogers and that is exactly what happened throughout the game. These three are the leaders of the defense and all three played very very well. Why we challenged these 3 over and over and over again is beyond me. The DL Parker played very well and even when he was not involved in making tackles he was an ongoing disruptive force. He is without a doubt the best DL we have seen this year and that includes anyone we played against from Michigan.”
The next is from alumnus and former player William Tyler Webb;
“I knew that the LBs and the Secondary were the strength of the defense but after watching the game I now believe that the Richmond Defense is a sound defense all around. Remember last time I wrote, I was concerned with the D-line and that the only big time player was Martin Parker? Well the young players at Richmond have gotten a little bit older and are playing with a lot of confidence now. I was really impressed with the D-line as a whole when I watched the game.”
The Minuteman cannot afford to hang their heads as they must now prepare for fellow New England powerhouse, New Hampshire.
As for the Spiders, they return home to Robins Stadium to host the Towson Tigers.
New Hampshire 28, James Madison 14
It was homecoming in Harrisonburg and 16,985 fans filled Bridgeforth Stadium to see the No. 7 James Madison Dukes play the 16th-ranked New Hampshire Wildcats.
The Dukes fresh off a win over Towson was looking to better their 4–1 overall record. The Wildcats, fresh off of their homecoming shutout win over Richmond, were trying to climb above a .500 record. UNH was third in the CAA in total offense, whereas JMU was second. This was an epic clash of defensive titans.
The Wildcats drew first blood as free safety Hugo Souza jarred the ball loose from JMU QB Drew Dudzik and linebacker Matt Evans scooped up the pigskin and ran 17 yards for the games initial TD, putting the Cats up 7–0 with 12 minutes to go in the 1st quarter.
On JMU’s next drive, Dudzik took his team 77 yards in eight plays. Dudzik completed one pass for eight yards. Most of the yardage was gained on the ground by running back Scott Noble, who had one run for a 44 yards and finished off the drive with a two-yard TD, tying the score with eight minutes remaining in the first quarter.
It was now UNH QB R.J. Toman’s turn to lead his team to a score, and he did by taking the team 42 yards in seven plays leading to a 30-yard field goal by Mike MacArthur putting UNH back in front 10–7. There were still six minutes to play in the first quarter.
The defense on both teams stiffend and with three possessions each, both teams would punt twice, and turn the ball over once. The Wildcats threw an interception, while JMU turned the ball over on downs trying to go for it on fourth and one at the UNH 17.
After a 50 yard punt by UNH's Kyle Auffray, JMU's Dae’Quan Scott retuned it 53 yards to the Wildcat 11. Auffray made the saving tackle.
Dudzik took his team the distance in three plays, handing the ball off to Noble who went off left tackle to score from two yards out. The Dukes took their first lead at 14–10. That was the last time the Dukes scored.
With just under a minute left in the first half, the Dukes missed a field goal try wide left.
UNH got the ball to start the second half, and Toman took his team 32 yards in seven plays to set up a MacArthur 25-yard field goal to close the gap to 14–13. That was all of the scoring in the thirrd quarter.
The Wildcats scored in the beginning of the fourth quarter as Toman took his team 64 yards in eight plays and hit Terrance Fox in the left flat. Fox scampered into the end zone untouched. UNH went for two and Toman hit running back Sean Jellison out of the backfield for the score, giving the Wildcats a 21–14 lead.
JMU’s next possession would end in an interception, and Toman took his team the distance again. Facing a second and four from the JMU 14 yard line, Dontra Peters swept around left end for the score, giving the Cats their final margin of victory 28–14.
The following is an excerpt of an email I received from New Hampshire alumnus, Peter Colby:
“It was very much like the Richmond-UNH game of the week before. UNH getting the early break and putting up points early but not looking very good. Then the UNH defense hardens up sometime during the second quarter and the offense makes enough good plays to add some more points while the defense manages the rest of the game.”
In his post game press conference, JMU head coach, Mickey Matthews stated his team just didn’t tackle well, and in his Monday morning teleconference call, coach Matthews stated his personnel along the defensive line spot is very thin.
On the other side of the ball, UNH head coach, Sean McDonnell said he was pleased with his team’s efforts over the last two games, and hopes that they can continue to execute and maintain their discipline throughout the remainder of the season.
Up next for the Cats is the Colonial Clash with Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts where the Wildcats will be the home team.
As for the Dukes, they travel to the Mainline to take on No. 6 Villanova.
Villanova 48, Maine 18
It was homecoming in Orono as 5,890 came out to see their Maine Black Bears host the Villanova Wildcats. It had rained all morning prior to the game, but the rain had stopped shortly before kickoff.
There were other Fall festivities about campus that may have had the attention of students and fans. The parking lots appeared to be filled to capacity, but the fans were slow to come through the gates. This was my first trip to the great state of Maine, and although my stay was limited I will share with you what I saw.
The University of Maine campus is picturesque. There is a prestigious Prep school in central New Jersey known as The Lawrenceville School. The architecture and landscaping at Maine put you in mind of a larger scale of Lawrenceville. I’m not sure pictures would adequately show just how beautiful the campus is.
But if you’re close enough to New Jersey, you can stop into The Lawrenceville School to get a good idea. Otherwise, you’d have to make the trip to Orono.
The football field runs north to south, with the north end zone colored in navy, and the word “MAINE” in Columbia (light) blue. This is to the left of the home sidelines.
The south end zone is also colored navy with the words “Black Bears” in Columbia blue lettering. The scoreboard is also located in the south end zone, which is to the right of the home team side of the field.
The field is surrounded by a light blue-colored Olympic track. The foliage that surrounded the north and east of the athletic fields is a beautiful cascade of red, orange, yellow, and greens.
Adjacent to the football field on the east behind the visitor stands is a beautifully manicured baseball field. Maine’s baseball team reached the conference playoffs in 2009.
Soccer and lacrosse fields outline the football and baseball fields. The men’s basketball team won 19 games last year which was the highest win total in two decades. Hockey is the main draw in Maine.
I’ve seen and heard many halftime promotions, but on this particular Saturday, one halftime promotion at the Maine game was new to me.
A local jewelry vendor had supplied 200 packets with a diamond in each. At the sound of a gun, 200 women were to race onto the field and obtain a packet.
These women were to return to the jewelry store to redeem their prize. Only one of the packets had a real diamond.
As these women stood at the ready for that gun to sound, I couldn’t help but think that I’m not sure neither the Villanova nor Maine football team would have stood a chance at defending the diamond packets from these very determined women.
Maine came out in their alternate Columbia blue jerseys with navy colored numbers, and navy pants. Villanova was clad in their white jerseys, with navy blue numbers, and white pants with navy blue stripes.
As I pointed out last week, Nova’s offensive line has an average of 6-4, 316, and Maine’s defensive line averaged 6-2, 254. That’s a 62-pound advantage up front, and this is one place where size matters.
Nova QB, Chris Whitney had all day to throw, and the Wildcat running backs could name the hole they wanted to run through.
Nova raced to a 27–3 halftime lead on a one-yard Whitney touchdown run, a 63-yard TD pass from Whitney to running back Angelo Babbaro, a 73-yard pass play from Whitney to receiver Dorian Wells and an 18-yard TD pass from Whitney to receiver Norman White.
Maine’s 28-yard field goal was made by Brian Harvey.
In the post game press conference, I asked Whitney what he saw in preparation for this game to give him the knowledge that he could hit Babbaro and Wells on those seam routes. Whitney replied that he saw Maine liked to play with 2 two safeties deep and left the slot one on one with the linebacker, and he liked that matchup.
In the second half, Maine QB Warren Smith connected with running back Derek Session on a 20-yard TD pass. Then Smith hit tight end Jeff Falvey on the try for two, to close the score to 27–11.
However, Nova would score three TD’s in the second half to put the game away.
Babbaro, ran around left end, hurdling a defender on his way to a 28-yard TD run, while Whitney scored on a two-yard run.
Backup QB Christian Culicerto hit Mikey Reynolds in the right flat just before being hit himself, and Reynolds ran 14 yards down the right sideline for the score, making it Nova 48, Maine 11.
Maine's reserve quarterback Chris Treister found running back Pushaun Brown with an 18-yard TD pass to complete the scoring with Nova winning 48–18.
Nova finished with 559 yards of total offense, and Chris Whitney was voted the CAA's offensive player of the week and also won national player of the week honors from CSN for his efforts. Whitney ran the ball nine times for 37 yards and the two TD’s, as well as throwing for 322 yards on 20-of-25 passing for three TD’s.
Wells had seven receptions for 111 yards and one TD and White had six catches for 94 yards and a score. The last time a Villanova QB threw for over 300 yards was March 12, 2005, when Frank Jankowski threw for 363 yards at James Madison.
Maine head coach, Jack Cosgrove was very impressed with the way the Nova offense executed and converted on third down. Maine will look to employ better defensive discipline and ball security in next week’s match with Rhode Island.
Villanova will hold its homecoming next Saturday and welcome the James Madison Dukes to the Mainline.
Delaware 24, Rhode Island 17
It was “Family Weekend” in Newark, DE. and 22,576 fans — Delaware’s 15th largest crowd all time — came out to see the Delaware Blue Hens host the Rhode Island Rams.
This was the largest crowd URI had played in front of all season. URI coming off a loss last weekend in Williamsburg was looking for its first road win. Delaware coming in at No. 2 in the country with a perfect 6–0 record, but wary of the upset-minded Rams.
URI won the opening coin toss and deferred their choice to the second half. Due to very high winds, Delaware elected to kick with the wind to their back.
URI fielded the kick at their seven-yard line and returned the ball to the 23. URI lost 11 yards in the next three plays. Delaware defensive lineman Michael Antunrase sacked URI QB, Steve Probst for a nine-yard loss. Facing fourth and 21 from their own 12, URI managed a punt that was knocked down by the wind and only went 25 yards.
The Blue Hens took over at the URI 37. With the combination of quarterback Pat Devlin's passing and freshman running back Andrew Pierce's rushing, the Blue Hens scored quickly. It took just five plays before Pierce ran in from 15 yards out to give the Blue Hens an early 7–0 lead.
On the second play of the next URI drive, Probst fumbled, and Delaware linebacker Paul Worrilow picked up the loose ball and dashed 27 yards for the score, making it 14-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
URI started its next drive at their 20 and moved all the way to the UD 10, but had their field goal try blocked by the Blue Hens' Darryl Jones. UD’s next drive went 68 yards in 13 plays, with kicker Mike Perry connected from 29 yards to push the UD to 17–0 early in the second quarter.
URI would finally settle down, and Probst led the team on the ensuing drive, 69 yards in 11 plays, with Probst bulling his way in for a TD on the left side of the center from one yard out. The score was now 17-7 UD with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half.
Both teams traded punts, then the dynamic duo of Devlin and Pierce took the team 80 yards in 11 plays with Pierce running it in from one yard out to push the UD lead up to 24–7.
However, Rhody would not flinch as running back Travis Hurd returned the kick 75 yards for a TD, narrowing the gap to 24–14 Blue Hens at halftime.
Turnovers and penalties stalled most drives in the third quarter.
After a UD fumbled punt, URI recovered the ball at the URI 43. Probst was able to take the team 41 yards in 6 plays, giving way to a 36 yard field goal by Louis Feinstein, making the score 24–17 Hens with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
From there, the game became a real defensive battle as neither team would score the rest of the way.
Delaware coach, K.C. Keeler stated there was no such thing as an ugly win. He said he was happy to come away with the wink, but felt his team still has not been tested.
Up next for the Blue Hens is a trip to Williamsburg to play the No. 5 William & Mary Tribe.
For URI, Hurd was named CAA special teams player of the week. URI will lick its wounds and prepare to host Maine next Saturday.
Last week I was 3–1, bringing me up to 28–14 (66% accurate). Congratulations to Richmond on executing and having the fortitude to stick with their game plan. The Spiders are truly the masters of their fate.
Maine (2–5, 1–3) at Rhode Island (2–4, 1–2), 12:30 p.m.
Series: Maine leads 51-34-3
Last season Maine defeated Rhode Island 41–17 behind their QB, Treister, who threw for 468 yards and completed a school record 40-of-46 pass attempts and five TD’s through the air while rushing for another. Rhody’s last win over Maine came back in 2006 with a score of 6–0.
The game features two of the top five CAA players in tackles in Maine’s Jr., LB, Donte Dennis (Rahway, NJ, 4th with 63), and Rhode Island’s Sr., LB, Matt Hansen (Providence, RI, 2nd with 71).
This will be Rhody’s homecoming game, and URI is 37-45-1 on homecoming since 1924. URI is 2–0 at home thus far this year. Maine is 1–2 on the road, and 0–1 in conference on the road.
Both teams have shown vulnerability through the air. Maine is ninth in the CAA in pass defense, allowing 250.3 ypg, and URI is 10th in the same category allowing 252.8 ypg.
The squads are in the same order in total defense. URI is ninth in scoring offense averaging 17.3 ppg, and Maine is 10th averaging 15.3 ppg. In total offense, Maine is sixth, averaging 316.3 ypg, and URI is ninth averaging 294.7 ypg.
The weather forecast calls for a partly cloudy day and a high of 60 degrees. Look for these teams to put the ball up in the air a lot in the first half, and whichever team can forge a lead, will undoubtedly try and shorten the game with their rushing attack.
Both teams have been close in upsetting top ranked teams all year. Turnovers have hurt both in those bids for upsets.
Both the GPI (39.62) and Sagarin (53.88) has Maine rated higher than URI, GPI (44.75), Sagarin (51.37), but Sagarin also gives three points for home field advantage pushing URI above Maine by less than one point.
These teams couldn’t be more even. In my pre-season picks, I had Maine winning this game, but lately Rhody’s been the hotter team. I’m going to side with Rhody by three, 27–24. No upset meter for this one.
Towson (1 – 5, 0 – 3) at No. 16 Richmond (3 – 3, 1 -2), 3:30 p.m.
Series: Richmond leads 4 – 2
Richmond won in 2009, 42–14, Towson last won in 2007, 23–21. The Tigers are coming off of their bye week, and had lost the previous four games headed into their bye. The Tigers are also winless on the road thus far this season at 0-3.
Saturday will be homecoming for the Spiders and UR is 40-33-6 all-time on homecoming and has won seven of its last 10. Along with homecoming, Saturday marks the official dedication of Robins Stadium. UR is coming home after upsetting previously eighth ranked UMass, and is 2–1 at its new home field.
Towson is ranked seventh (18 ppg) in the CAA in scoring offense, whereas Richmond is ranked eighth (17.5 ppg). The Spiders are seventh (allowing 22.5 ppg) in scoring defense, and the Tigers are 10th (34.5 ppg).
The Spiders have been plagued by injuries and are leaning on their Senior leadership on defense to keep the team in the game.
The Tigers are young on both sides of the ball, but are gaining valuable experience. Towson knows how to put points on the board, they’ve just been struggling to stop their opponents from scoring.
The Spiders defense is tough to score on, but they’ve also struggled to score points. This should be a very interesting game. I’m siding with the experience and defense of the home team Spiders by a touchdown. Spiders 27, Tigers 20. Upset Meter [----7--].
No. 12 Massachusetts at No. 10 New Hampshire, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA., 3:30
Series: Massachusetts leads 43-26-3
New Hampshire fresh off its upset of then-No. 7-ranked JMU, and winners of their last two, travel to Foxboro, Ma to host the Massachusetts Minutemen.
UMass is 2–1 on the road this year, narrowly losing to FBS, Michigan, and 1–0 on the road in conference. UMass had their confidence shaken last week as they lost their homecoming game to Richmond.
UMass won in 2009, 23–17. UNH won in 2008, 52–21. On Aug 18, this annual football rivalry has been dubbed the Colonial Clash and has been moved to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Ma.
Both head coaches are excited for their respective teams at the opportunity to play in a Pro stadium and generating interest in each school’s football team from the surrounding areas. UMass will utilize the Patriots sidelines and UNH will be on the visitors side.
In scoring offense, UMass is third in the CAA (26.3 PPG), and UNH is fifth (23.3 ppg). In scoring defense, UNH is third (15.6 ppg) and UMass is sixth (19.7 ppg).
UMass did not execute well against the Richmond defense last week coming off a bye week. Can they get it together before Saturday, or was the Richmond game a wake-up call as to how good UMass really is?
UNH lost to Maine and URI, but beat Richmond and JMU, go figure. The Wildcats also have had coach Sean McDonnell scratching his head.
Whatever magic the Wildcats have left, they will need every bit of it against this determined UMass team.
As UNH has seen adversity and are a little more adept in handling it, I will side with the Wildcats as the Minutemen are still learning how to win in tough “Must Win” games. Wildcats 27 – Minutemen 24. Upset Meter [---5---]
No. 11 James Madison (4–2, 1–2) at No. 6 Villanova (4–2, 2–1), 3:30 p.m.
Series: James Madison leads 10–8
It’s homecoming for Villanova, and the weather forecast calls for a partly cloudy day and a high of 61 degrees. Nova won in 2009 down in Harrisonburg 27–0.
However, JMU won twice in 2008, first on the Mainline off a Rodney Landers 35-yard Hail Mary in the driving rain TD to nip the Wildcats 23-19. Then, again in the quarter finals of the FCS playoffs, where JMU came from behind to defeat the Cats, 31–27.
Villanova is fresh off of its mauling of the Maine Black Bears in Orono, is undefeated at home thus far sporting a 2–0 record with wins over Towson and Penn.
Meanwhile, James Madison is reeling from its homecoming loss to UNH, but is 2-0 on the road thus far this season with wins over FBS Virginia Tech, and conference foe, Towson. One of these streaks will end on Saturday.
Both teams have been riddled with injuries, but managed to persevere, sporting identical 4–2 overall records. Both need this win to move that much closer to the magic number of eight FCS wins and a shot at the playoffs.
Villanova is first in the CAA in scoring offense (32.7 ppg), JMU is second in the CAA in scoring defense (13.3 ppg). On offense, JMU’s strength is their rushing offense, which is fourth in the CAA (178.8 ypg). Nova is first in the CAA in rushing defense (allowing 83.7 ypg).
In total offense, Nova is second in the CAA (396.5 ypg), and in total defense, JMU is second (allowing 266.2 ypg).
In his post game press conference, JMU coach Mickey Matthews made mention that his team is penalized more than his opponents. JMU is the most penalized team in the CAA, with 42 penalties and an average of 69.2 yards per game. Villanova is fourth in this category with 35 penalties and average of 50.3 yards per game.
This game will come down to which team is the healthiest, and which team will convert its third downs.
Currently Nova is 1st in the CAA in converting third downs at a 46.2%. JMU’s opponents have only converted third downs 29.2% of the time, ranking the Dukes 3rd in the CAA.
On the other hand, the Dukes are only converting third downs at a 38.3% which places them seventh in the CAA, but Nova’s opponents have converted thirrd downs 32.5% of the time, placing them sixth in the CAA.
Execution and team discipline will play a huge role in this game as Coach Matthews commented on Monday, you have to tackle in this league or you won’t be playing long.
As the Wildcats appear to be on the mend, health-wise, and have adjusted to playing without all-purpose star Matt Szczur (high ankle sprain). Villanova is also still stinging from that Hail Mary play of two years ago. Look for the Cats to be the victor in this one as JMU continues with their offensive struggles. Wildcats 28 Dukes 14. Upset Meter [--3---]
No. 2 Delaware (7–0, 4–0) at No. 4 William & Mary (5–1, 3-1), 12:00 p.m.
Series: Delaware leads 20–14
The Tribe has won the last two games, while the Blue Hens have won the previous three. The series is tied 9-9 all-time in games played in Williamsburg. The Tribe won in 2009, 30–20 in Williamsburg, whereas the Blue Hens last won in 2007 49–31 in Williamsburg, the first game in CAA football history. The last four games have been decided by 10 points or more.
The Tribe is coming off their bye week, have won five games in a row and nine straight at home. The game is sold out and promises to be action packed on both sides of the ball.
The Tribe is second in the CAA in scoring offense, averaging 28.3 ppg. The Blue Hens are first in the CAA in scoring defense, allowing eight ppg. UD is fourth in the CAA in scoring offense, averaging 26.3 ppg, and the Tribe is fourth in the CAA in scoring defense, allowing 16 ppg.
What you will see on Saturday is two very good offenses against two very good defenses.
I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but execution and team discipline will be the difference in this game, which team can execute in the first half, and again after the halftime adjustments. And which team will maintain discipline in the second half after their opponent adjusts at halftime.
Most likely, the team that wins the turnover war will capture the game.
The Tribe doesn’t frighten you defensively like they did in 2009, but this group is more opportunistic, and can score points for their team.
Likewise Delaware's defense is just as opportunistic and looks for ways to score on defense.
Both teams have good first and second team QB’s and have won with both. Both coaches are excellent chess masters. Yes, this game will come down to the ability to execute, and maintaining defensive integrity (discipline).
UD was surprisingly shut out at home in the second half against Rhode Island, this does not bode well for them.
The Tribe let the UMass game slip away from them in the second half, and they let Nova rally to make what was a huge deficit a one score game in the final. This is also not a good sign.
Delaware coach, K.C. Keeler stated his team has not yet been challenged, but believes the Tribe will put the Blue Hens to the test.
With that bye week, let’s see if the Tribe brings their “A” game. Tribe 28, Blue Hens 24. No need for the Upset Meter.
As always you can email your thoughts and comments to CAATODAY@YAHOO.COM
This is the CAA TODAY signing off.