By Sam Partridge
The CAA Today Columnist
College Sporting News
This past weekend saw some significant CAA matchups for the first time and some early indications of how the CAA title chase and playoff picture may ultimately turn out.
LAST WEEK'S GAMES
New Hampshire at Lehigh - With two bye weeks in the first four, it was hard to tell what kind of a team coach McDonnell had in Durham, but a road game at Lehigh figured to help answer some questions. When the Wildcats jumped out to an early lead and still led 27-13 in the third quarter, it looked like UNH was all set for a solid road win, but Lehigh rallied for three straight touchdowns and a 34-27 win. The loss dropped UNH to 1-2 and raised questions about the adjustments the team was unable to make in the second half of both losses. With a matchup at Towson this weekend, New Hampshire is in a tough spot.
James Madison at Delaware - Another team with a seemingly comfortable second half lead, JMU was done in by a missed short field goal and a blocked punt as they blew a good chance at a road win at Delaware, ultimately falling 29-22. The Blue Hens were fired up to get Coach Dave Brock his first CAA win and the offense took advantage of opportunities after halftime to pull off the comeback. THe Dukes continue to be plagued by inconsistent play and coach Mickey Matthews is sorely in need of some leadership on the field if this squad is going to make a run at the playoffs.
Towson at Stony Brook - Quickly falling behind 14-0 was not a concern to coach Rob Ambrose of Towson and his team proved him right with an impressive 35-21 comeback win on Long Island. As usual, Terrance West led the way with 150 yards, but Darius Victor scored the game winner with 2:38 left for the Tigers. At 5-0, Towson is the class of the CAA at this point, but the challenges continue with a game against New Hampshire this weekend.
Maine at Richmond - The surprising run continued for the Black Bears as they went on the road and got an impressive win at Richmond, 28-21. Marcus Wasilewski and Michael Strauss engaged in a tremendous quarterback battle as they each threw for two scores, but both made mistakes, throwing for a combined five interceptions. Strauss' third was the most costly, coming in the Maine end zone as the Spiders tried to rally late to try to tie the score. Maine had taken the lead on Wasilewski's 48-yard scoring pass to Arthur Williams and the defense held on for a great road win to start the CAA season.
Albany at Old Dominion - Albany coach Bob Ford was worried about the matchup with the Monarchs prolific offense, and he turned out to be prophetic as the Danes were buried by an avalanche of points in Norfolk, VA, 66-10. Albany was even at 7-7 before ODU reeled off 35 straight to take a 42-7 lead at halftime. Albany will need to figure out a way to play better on both sides of the ball as they head into the bulk of the CA season.
Central Connecticut State at Rhode Island - After giving James Madison a battle and knocking off Albany, it was expected that CCSU would be a handful for Rhode Island, but the Rams continued to show improvement and had their first easy win in a long time with a 42-7 victory. Justin Semmes rushed for over 100 yards on 18 carries and Bob Bentsen threw for a couple of first half touchdowns as the Rams rolled up a 21-0 lead at the break. They didn't let up in the second half and the boys from Kingston are finally showing some signs that they are breaking out of the rut they have been in for the better part of three years.
Penn at Villanova - It wasn't that long ago that Villanova was 0-2, but the the Wildcats have put those dark days well behind them with two straight wins over solid teams, the most recent a 35-6 drubbing of crosstown rival Penn. John Robertson threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns as Villanova got their second consecutive blowout victory and rolled towards a huge matchup with William & Mary this Saturday.
CAA PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player of the Week: John Robertson, Soph., QB, Villanova
Robertson led Villanova to its second-straight win and the 200th of head coach Andy Talley's tenure with Saturday's 35-6 victory over defending Ivy League champion Penn. The sophomore dual threat's skills were on full display against the Quakers, as he finished 19-of-28 for 266 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions to complement a ground game in which he racked up a 36-yard score and 132 total yards on 15 rushes.
Defensive Player of the Week: Stephon Robertson, Sr., LB, James Madison
CAA Football's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year picks up his second-consecutive weekly honor on the heels of a standout defensive effort against Delaware on Saturday. The senior turned in a career-high 16 tackles, including a career-best 4.5 for loss, in Newark and now leads the league with 61 stops on the year. Robertson would also come away with his third career interception in the loss.
Special Teams Player of the Week: Brad Prasky, Jr., P, New Hampshire
Prasky retained his place atop the nation's punting chart after sending five punts sailing 255 yards to highlight New Hampshire's special teams play against nationally-ranked Lehigh. The junior, who showcased a long punt of 62 yards in Saturday's setback, continues to lead all FCS punters with a 49.1-yard average through three games.
Rookie of the Week: Christophe Mulumba, R-Fr., LB, Maine
Mulumba receives his second rookie nod of the season after securing six tackles and his second career interception as Maine held the Spiders to just 65 rushing yards on Saturday. The redshirt freshman skied over the middle in the second quarter to secure the pick, which led to one of sophomore Nigel Jones' three scores on the day. Mulumba also added a pass breakup to help the Black Bears improve to 4-1 with their 28-21 win.
MY TOP 25:
1: North Dakota State
2: Northern Iowa
3: Sam Houston State
5: Eastern Illinois
6: Eastern Washington
10: South Dakota State
11: McNeese State
12: Montana State
14: Central Arkansas
15: William & Mary
16: James Madison
18: New Hampshire
19: Northern Arizona
22: Coastal Carolina
23: Youngstown State
24: Charleston Southern
THIS WEEK'S GAMES
Bryant at Stony Brook - Stony Brook will look forward to a bit of a breather after facing Villanova and Towson in back-to-back weeks, but Bryant has shown itself to be a dangerous team. The Seawolves should have enough to hold off the NEC foe, but I wouldn't be surprised if Stony Brook had a bit of a letdown after failing to close out what would have been a signature win last win against Towson. Still, the home crowd should be enough to help keep the group from Long Island energized. Stony Brook 31 Bryant 20
Rhode Island at Brown - The annual Governor's Cup game has a little more importance this year for Rhode Island as the Rams head into the matchup having won two of three and with a chance to get back to .500 halfway through the season. This would be a nice accomplishment and is definitely something coach Trainer would like to see his charges pull off. Brown jumped out to an early 13-0 lead over Harvard, but was ultimately no match for the Crimson in a 41-23 loss. Coach Trainer kept insisting that his Rams were playing better than their record and they finally seemed to show it last week in a rout of Central Connecticut State. I think the Rams continue their winning ways and get to 3-3 and have a happy ride from Providence back to Kingston. Rams 30 Bears 24
Albany at JMU - It will be interesting to see the mindset of these teams after the losses they suffered last week. Albany got pasted by Old Dominion for their third straight loss while JMU blew a winnable game at Delaware with a sloppy, mistake-filled second half. Can Coach Ford keep his team from getting demoralized, especially with the tough CAA schedule looming? Can Mickey Matthews find a way to get his team to execute for a whole game? Birdsong has to be better at quarterback for the Dukes and the special teams needs to have a clean game so the pressure doesn't fall completely on the defense to pull out a win. I'm not sure the Dukes can right the ship completely in a week, but Albany doesn't seem to quite have the horses to get the win on the road. JMU 31 Albany 13
New Hampshire at Towson - Heading into the season, this definitely had the makings of one of the key games on the CAA schedule and almost definitely looked like a game of the week. However, New Hampshire's slow start, especially the loss to Lehigh last week, has turned this into a near survival game for the Wildcats. A loss to the Tigers in their CAA opener, would leave UNH at 1-3 and, with only 11 games on the schedule, in a difficult position to keep the country's longest playoff streak alive. New Hampshire's defense has shown a propensity to wear down in the second half this year and that's not a great recipe against a Towson team that specializes in imposing its will physically on opponents. New Hampshire had little success stopping the Tigers in a blowout loss last year and its hard to see that changing this week. Towson 41 UNH 27
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Delaware at Maine - Even with a new coach at the helm, an early favorable schedule loaded with home games made it fairly reasonable to expect the Hens would be 4-1 at this point. On the flip side, with two FBS games and a road date at Richmond, expectations were much more modest for Jack Cosgrove's group. However, the squad from Orono has done just that and fashioned one of the true surprise stories of the early season. A win here for either team will be a big springboard into the second half, but especially so for a Maine team trying to prove it belongs. It just feels like there's something special going on with the Black Bears and I think so home cooking will be a recipe for a 5-1 start. Maine 27 Delaware 23
William & Mary at Villanova - The Tribe comes off their bye week rested and confident after a somewhat surprising 3-1 start, but they are running up against a Villanova team that seems to have righted the ship in impressive fashion with blowout wins over Stony Brook and Penn the last two weeks. The Wildcats will look to make it three in a row against a William & Mary team that has gotten solid play at quarterback from Michael Graham but has really been led by tremendous play on defense from a unit that has been simply dominant. That group will be challenged in a different way by Andy Talley's dynamic offense led by John Robertson and numerous other weapons for Villanova. While the Tribe has had some success in recent years against Villanova, the Wildcats seem to have won most of the games that truly had something at stake. Don't think that will change on Saturday. Villanova 30 William & Mary 20