Week 9 CAA FCS Football Game Breakdowns

George Hammond

Week 9 Colonial Athletic Association Game Breakdowns

Here’s what we know about the league title chase and teams in the running for possible playoff spots – not much.

The uber-competitive CAA showed just how tough it is again last weekend when Richmond (5-3, 3-2) stunned No. 7 James Madision (5-2, 3-1) 35-29 to create an even tighter race for the conference crown. There are now four teams with one loss and three teams with two losses still in the hunt.

And six teams are in the College Sports Madness Top 25: No. 6 Old Dominion, No. 7 James Madison, No. 9 New Hampshire, No. 19 Villanova, No. 21 Delaware and No. 25 Towson.

The Spiders’ huge win at home against JMU sets the stage for quite a stretch run with four weeks remaining.   Making his first career start in place of the injured John Laub, Virginia transfer Michael Strauss completed 27 of 43 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Spiders. Richmond led 35-16 with 6:41 remaining before JMU mounted a late rally that fell short.

 JMU coach Mickey Matthews, whose team was yielding just 15.8 points a game, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that his defense was “totally atrocious,” “horrific” and added “we never did play a lick of defense the whole game.”

Strauss and company might have had something to do with that. Pro prospect Kevin Finney, a 6-foot-6 tight end, caught three touchdown passes. Stephen Barnette had nine receptions for 144 yards, and Kendall Gaskins rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries.  “I knew they’d make a run, and they certainly did,” said Richmond coach Danny Rocco, who called the game “a signature win.”

The other key game from the weekend was Old Dominion’s 31-20 victory over Towson. ODU’s sensational quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed 26 of 39 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 71 yards and two scores.

"I haven't seen anybody yet that has stopped that kid, and I don't think anybody's going to," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said to the Baltimore Sun. "There's no quarterback out there I've seen so far on film that has his mastery over his offense like that kid does, and that's a credit to the staff and the kid and his surrounding partners. They are truly, truly dynamic."

So here’s where the CAA stands:

         * New Hampshire (6-2, 4-1) might be in the best position. The Wildcats defeated rival Maine 28-21 Saturday and visit winless Rhode Island this week. After that, they finish with William & Mary, are idle on Nov. 10 and host Towson on Nov. 17.  With the Tigers now with four losses (they bowed to ODU on Saturday), Towson must run the table to be eligible for a playoff spot. In other words, the Tigers season might be done by the time Nov. 17 arrives.

       * Villanova (6-2, 4-1) has three tough battles remaining, but two are at home (Towson and JMU). The Wildcats finish at rival Delaware.

       * ODU (6-1, 3-1) scored a big victory Saturday night at Towson (31-20) and should be in good shape for a playoff spot (the Monarchs aren’t eligible for the CAA crown). ODU has a key home game with Delaware on Saturday and finish with Georgia State, William & Mary and JMU.

       * James Madison (5-2, 3-1) should have an easy time with Georgia State on Saturday, but the Dukes close with road games at Maine and Villanova before playing host to ODU on Nov. 17.

      * Richmond (5-3, 3-2) really helped itself on Saturday. After a bye this week, the Spiders finish with home games against Rhode Island and Delaware before visiting William & Mary in the regular-season finale. Even if they don’t win the league crown, an 8-3 record should get them a playoff spot.

       * Delaware (5-2, 2-2) remains in the hunt, but the slate gets much tougher for the Hens. They visit ODU on Saturday, then finish with Towson, Richmond and Villanova.

       * Towson (3-4, 2-2) needs to win out to qualify for a playoff spot, and that won’t be easy. The Tigers finish with Villanova, Delaware, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

Here’s a look at this weekend’s games:


#21 DELAWARE at #6 OLD DOMINION (Noon Saturday at Foreman Field, Norfolk, Va.)

The Hens won last year’s meeting 27-17 in Newark, and Delaware would love to see Saturday’s contest be in the same scoring range. If the Hens get in a shootout with ODU’s Taylor Heinicke, they’ll be in big trouble. The Monarchs jumped out to a 31-6 advantage over Towson on Saturday night before the Tigers cut the final margin to 31-20. Expect the Blue Hens to try and control the clock with running back Andrew Pierce, who was named College Sports Madness CAA Offensive Player of the Week for his three-touchdown, 141-yard rushing effort in the Hens’ 47-24 victory over Rhode Island. With starting quarterback Trent Hurley hobbled with a foot injury (his status for Saturday is uncertain), senior quarterback Tim Donnelly made his first start and was 19-of-27 for 191 yards. Donnelly saw a lot of action last year, so he does have experience. Still, the Hens haven’t shown they can handle (at least on a consistent basis) a team of ODU’s caliber.

Projected score: Old Dominion 31, Delaware 23


#25 TOWSON at #19 VILLANOVA (3:30 p.m. Saturday at Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.)

This is a huge game for both teams, and Villanova enters the contest on a good roll after dismantling Georgia State 49-24 on Saturday. Villanova built a 35-3 second-quarter advantage en route to the easy victory. The victory was highlighted by Poppy Livers’ 66-yard punt return for a touchdown – Villanova’s first punt return for a TD since 1980. Meanwhile, Towson fell to ODU and needs to win out to make the playoffs.  The Tigers won this meeting 31-10 last year, but these two are more evenly matched this time around. The Tigers were missing outstanding running back Terrance West against ODU. He didn’t play reportedly because of a death in his family.

Projected score: Villanova 24, Towson 21


#9 NEW HAMPSHIRE at RHODE ISLAND (noon Saturday at Meade Stadium, Kingston, R.I.)

The Wildcats continue to take care of business as they won a key contest 28-21 at Maine on Saturday. Making his first start since being injured at Minnesota, Sean Goldrich threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns. New Hampshire fell behind 14-0 before scoring 28 consecutive points. Last year, New Hampshire prevailed 31-24. Meanwhile, winless Rhode Island jumped out to a 7-0 advantage over Delaware on Saturday, but couldn’t sustain it. The 24 points, however, were the most the Rams have scored this season. Senior wide receiver Brandon Johnson-Farrell had eight receptions for 91 yards and two touchdowns for the Rams.

Projected score: New Hampshire 42, Rhode Island 17


GEORGIA STATE AT #7  JAMES MADISON (3:30 p.m. Saturday at Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, Va.)

This won’t be pretty. Outside of its lone win against Rhode Island, Georgia State (1-7, 1-4) has been feeble and the Dukes expect to be in a bad mood after losing at Richmond. Figure JMU to take its frustrations out on the visitors. It will be interesting to see what the Dukes do at quarterback, however, after ineffective starter Justin Thorpe was yanked at Richmond in favor of freshman Michael Birdsong who led a Dukes’ comeback that fell just short.

Projected score: James Madison 45, Georgia State 10


MAINE at WILLIAM & MARY (3:30 p.m. Saturday at Zable Stadium, Williamsburg, Va.)

Their respective records might not show it, but these are two decent teams and this should be an interesting contest. William & Mary (2-5, 1-3) has lost several heartbreakers this year  - it has lost four games by a total of eight points. The Tribe is coming off a bye and the week off should help them. Meanwhile, Maine lost a 28-21 contest to rival New Hampshire.

Projected score: William & Mary 24, Maine 20


See All FCS Games of the Week Breakdowns