Week 7 CAA FCS Football Game Breakdowns

George Hammond

Week 7 Colonial Athletic Association Game Breakdowns

The first part of October has been good for James Madison redshirt junior quarterback Justin Thorpe. Early in the week, Thorpe, who suffered two major injuries at the beginning of his college career, got word that the NCAA is granting him a sixth year of eligibility, meaning he will return next season.

Then, on Saturday, Thorpe ran a perfect two-minute drive at the end of the Dukes’ contest with Towson to give No. 3 James Madison a thrilling come-from-behind 13-10 victory over its CAA rivals before 25,077 in Harrisonburg, VA. Thorpe was 6-for-6 passing on the Dukes' final eight-play scoring drive, registering 60 of his 116 passing yards. JMU took possession on its own 21 after No. 15 Towson's go-ahead touchdown.

“I told the kids that was a championship drive right there,” James Madison coach Mickey Matthews told the Staunton (Va.) News Leader. “That was a big-time drive. That’s what championships are made of.”

Certainly Towson Coach Rob Ambrose came away impressed. “I don’t want to slight the previous team we just played, but given the choice between the two, I don’t want to play the Dukes again – at least until later,” he told reporters. Perhaps it was a psychological ploy, but the Tigers’ (2-3, 1-1) played LSU the week before.

The game was true to its billing as a matchup of the CAA's top two defenses. Out of the 573 total offensive yards, 171 came on the two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. The teams combined to go 7-for-28 on third-down conversions.

Stephon Robertson, who led the Dukes with a career-high 15 solo tackles, also was named College Sports Madness’ National Defensive Player of the Week.  “This was our best game on defense most definitely,” Robertson said. “I’m saying that because Towson has a really good team. They set up their pass game off of their run game, and their run game is the best we’ve seen in a couple of years.”

So where do we stand at the halfway point of the season as far as the league title and playoffs are concerned?

        * No. 4 Old Dominion (5-0, 2-0) and JMU figure to be in the playoffs. ODU, which isn’t eligible for the league title because of its pending move to Conference USA, has key dates with Towson (Oct. 20) and a date with JMU (Nov. 17).

       * No. 10 New Hampshire (4-2, 2-1) looks like it could be headed to its ninth consecutive playoff appearance. The Wildcats have an interesting game with Richmond this weekend, but still have Rhode Island and William & Mary to play. A key contest could come in the regular-season finale when New Hampshire hosts Towson. Remember, New Hampshire led ODU by 23 points in the second half in Norfolk.

      * Blue Hen fans are not happy in Newark, Del., after their team (4-2, 1-2) laid an egg Saturday in a 26-3 loss to Maine before more than 21,000. Hens’ quarterback Trent Hurley was sacked nine times as the Hens’ playoff hopes might have taken a big hit because they still have dates with ODU, Towson, Richmond and Villanova, among others.

    * Towson (2-3, 1-1) might be the best 2-3 team in the nation, but its difficult early schedule has left the Tigers with little margin for error. The Tigers have six games remaining, but must win five to get to seven FCS victories (the minimum to qualify for a playoff berth). And their schedule reads: Maine, ODU, Villanova, Delaware, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.  Basically, Towson must beat Maine, Villanova, Delaware and Rhode Island, then either ODU (at home) or New Hampshire (on the road). This should be interesting.


RICHMOND at #10 NEW HAMPSHIRE (Noon Saturday at Cowell Stadium, Durham, N.H.)

Last year, New Hampshire held off the Spiders 45-43 in Richmond and Saturday’s contest in New England looks like it could be another doozy. And it also has playoff implications written all over it. The Wildcats (4-2, 2-1) got to this point with an easy 44-21 victory last Saturday over winless Georgia State. Andy Vailas threw for four touchdowns and Nico Steriti, College Sports Madness’ CAA Offensive Player of the Week,  scored three times. New Hampshire is fourth in the nation in total offense, averaging 507.9 yards a game. Meanwhile, Richmond (4-2, 2-1) got a big win for first-year coach Danny Rocco as they traveled to Philadelphia and came away with a 28-17 victory over Villanova.  It was the Spiders’ first victory at Villanova since the 2000 season. The Spiders were led by quarterback John Lau, who completed 19-of-34 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 20 times for a career-high 79.  In addition, the Spiders didn’t allow a sack against the Wildcats and have allowed just one all season, which is tied for the national FCS lead. Plus, Richmond and New Hampshire are both among the top 10 teams nationally in turnover margin.

Projected score: New Hampshire 34, Richmond 20


GEORGIA STATE at RHODE ISLAND (1 p.m. Saturday at Meade Stadium, Kingston, R.I.)

Somebody has to win on Saturday, as the bottom two teams in the CAA square off in what has been a season of futility for both schools. Rhode Island (0-5) fell to rival Brown 17-7 Saturday as the Rams got behind 14-0 in the first half and couldn’t catch up. The Rams have particularly struggled in the second half this season as they now have been shut out four times in the final half. The lone bright spot was the play of senior receiver Brandon Johnson-Farrell, who had 10 receptions to move into third place on the school’s all-time receiving list. Meanwhile, Georgia State (0-6) had its best offensive showing of the season, but still lost to New Hampshire 44-21. For the year, Georgia State has now been outscored 236-71. One of the few bright spots for Georgia State was the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Ben McLane, who came off the bench to throw for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

Projected score: Rhode Island 24, Georgia State 16


WILLIAM & MARY at #3 JAMES MADISON (3:30 p.m. Saturday at Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, Va.)

The Dukes (4-1, 2-0) got a huge win Saturday against Towson that should put them in a good shape for a run at the league title and a playoff spot – if they weren’t in good shape already. JMU coach Mickey Matthews picked up his 100th career win. The Dukes’ biggest concern might be an emotional letdown, but the Tribe (2-4, 1-2) does pose problems. Brent Caprio threw two touchdowns and Tre McBride matched a career high with seven receptions as William & Mary held off Penn 34-28 on Saturday. Caprio, William & Mary's third starting quarterback this season, finished with 220 yards on 18-of-28 passing. McBride, who also hauled in seven passes in the Tribe's Sept. 22 matchup with Delaware, finished with 128 yards and has registered at least one reception of 20 yards or longer in the last six games.

Projected score: James Madison 27, William & Mary 10


MAINE at #15 TOWSON (7 p.m. Saturday at Unitas Stadium, Towson, Md.)

The Tigers did everything right Saturday against JMU except come away with a victory. Now, they must regroup and face a fired-up Maine squad (2-3, 1-1) that played well in a 26-3 stunner over Delaware. Michael Cole had five sacks for Maine and quarterback Marcus Wasilewski was 12-for-18 for 176 yards and three touchdowns. This will not be an easy game for Towson. Expect to see a healthy dose of outstanding running back Terrance West, who had 112 yards on 28 carries in the loss to JMU.

Projected score: Towson 27, Maine 14


VILLANOVA AT #4 OLD DOMINION (3:30 p.m. Saturday at S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, Va.)

The Wildcats (4-2, 2-1) hope that the Monarchs’ (5-0, 2-0) bye week slowed their offense. Look at these gaudy numbers: ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke is No. 1 in total offense, No. 1 in passing yards and second in passing completions while the Monarchs are No. 1 in total offense (654 yards per game) by an astounding 116 yards a game ahead of No. 2 Eastern Illinois. Obviously, if Villanova wants to make a game of it, it must slow the Monarchs’ offense and keep its own turnovers to a minimum. Turnovers hurt the Wildcats in Saturday’s loss to Richmond.

Projected score: Old Dominion 45, Villanova 23


See All FCS Games of the Week Breakdowns