The last regular season, home game in the magnificent career of Villanova Head Coach, Andy Talley has major CAA conference championship implications. With a win, James Madison can clinch at least a share of the regular-season title and, with it, the auto-bid into the FCS play-offs. With a Senior Day, upset over the Dukes and then a win at Delaware next week, the Cats can stake a claim to at least a share of the CAA title.
JMU enters the game ranked #6 in the STATS Top 25 poll and #5 in the FCS Coaches Poll while Villanova is ranked #9 and #11, respectively, in the same polls. Normally, the home field would seem to be an advantage but road teams are 19-17 in CAA conference games and JMU is coming off a win at Richmond that broke the Spiders’ eleven game, home win streak.
The Dukes have a high-powered offense led by the talented duo of running back Khalid Abdullah and quarterback Bryan Schor. Abdullah has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season, averages 119.3 yards per game, and scores 10.7 pig (2nd in FCS). Schor was the CAA Offensive Player of the week last week. He is a dual threat QB, averages 213.1 yards per game passing, and is ranked 3rd in the FCS in passing efficiency at 178.5. The JMU offense is averaging 529.6 yards per game (3rd best in FCS). The Dukes average 308.9 yards on the ground while the stingy Wildcat defense has been holding teams to 96.3 yards per game rushing - something has to give there. The Cats are 3rd overall in FCS in total defense - limiting opponents to 268.0 yards per game.
Earlier this week, Coach Talley explained to VUSports his approach to trying to slow down the JMU offense: “We have got to be able to run the football. We certainly couldn't do it Saturday. We have got to be able to take some time off the clock and keep the ball out of his hands. That is the first thing you are going to try to do but I don't know if ... well Richmond got in a shooting match with them and Richmond has the kind of skill set to do that. I don't think we have that kind of skill set here - I think we are going to have to keep the game somewhere in the teens or the low twenties to have a chance because we are not a high volume scoring outfit. I think we have an average of about 25 points a game and we are giving up about 12. It is one of those deals. It is a great offense against a really good defense and their defense is really good as well. It is a Championship game. It is one of those games where you are going to see two really good teams go at it and not even to mention turnovers - you could turn over the ball one time and you could be in harm's way with this team.” He continued to discuss his defense saying “At times we do bend but we haven't broken that much and we haven't given up a lot of big plays. I think that is the big thing - if people are going to score on us they are going to have to drive seventy-five or sixty-five yards. At least that is the way it has been. Now, with JMU, with Abdullah, he can rip one off in a heartbeat, Schor can throw an eighty-yard touchdown in a heartbeat so, we have to make sure that whatever they get against us they have to earn. That is kind of the way our defense has been moving along. The biggest thing is that we can run and in the CAA you have to be able to run because everybody has a pretty good skill set.”
In the Coaches call, Talley also explained how he would try to address containing Schor: “… a problem for any defense where you are playing a quarterback that can pull it down and run because he can either get them back on schedule or ahead of schedule and I think your defense has to be cognizant of a guy like that rather than a pocket guy who hangs in there and you know where he is going to throw it from. That is what makes him a terrific quarterback and so dangerous. And that is not easy to spy him because if you spy him you are going to give up some coverage as well. So you know, you are betwixt and between and I know you heard a couple of the other coaches earlier talk about how they tried to defend him and the truth of the matter is there is no really good way to defend him. Probably you are going to have to try and score as many points as JMU is going to score to stay in the game. ”
Keys to the Game:
- controlling time of possession (can ‘Nova run the ball?)
- turnover margin
- ‘Nova defense vs. JMU offense
- Bednarczyk making good decisions in perhaps his biggest game yet
More Notes, 2-Deeps, Standings, Schedule & Rankings: