JMU’s op­po­nents have been well-rested

Sched­ul­ing quirk has two CAA foes com­ing off byes

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - College Football - BY JOHN O’CON­NOR Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch

Among eight CAA games last year, James Madi­son faced three league op­po­nents com­ing off bye weeks.

The CAA of­fice in­di­cated that a re­peat of that twist would be avoided in sub­se­quent sea­sons with an ad­just­ment of the com­puter-gen­er­ated sched­ul­ing for­mula.

That patch hasn’t yet fully taken ef­fect.

When the top-ranked Dukes (4-0, 1-0 CAA) visit Delaware (2-1) on Satur­day at 3:30 p.m. (CSN­plus), JMU will be fac­ing its sec­ond con­sec­u­tive league op­po­nent com­ing off an open date. Madi­son last Satur­day beat Maine 28-10. The Black Bears had two weeks to pre­pare for JMU, as did the Blue Hens.

JMU is the fa­vorite to win the CAA. The teams picked sec­ond (Rich­mond), third (Vil­lanova) and fourth (New Hamp­shire), visit Madi­son’s Bridge­forth Sta­dium later this sea­son.

Then there’s Delaware, picked fifth and com­ing off that bye week, open­ing its CAA sched­ule against the Dukes, de­fend­ing FCS cham­pi­ons. UD re­turned 20 starters from a 4-7 team (2-6 CAA).

“When you look at them on the hoof ... they’re a big, phys­i­cally im­pres­sive, good-look­ing group of ath­letes,” JMU coach Mike Hous­ton said of the Blue Hens. “I made the com­ment last year that they may be one of the best-look­ing teams in our league, as far as they’ve got a lot of big, strong kids, got a lot of ath­letic kids.”

In the Blue Hens’ first three games un­der Danny Rocco, a former Rich­mond and Lib­erty coach, they beat Delaware State and Cor­nell at home with rel­a­tive ease, and ab­sorbed a 27-0 loss at Vir­ginia Tech.

“They’re a team that’s prob­a­bly go­ing to play bet­ter and bet­ter each week through­out the year as they get more on the same page with the coach­ing staff,” Hous­ton said. “We see them as maybe our tough­est chal­lenge of the year so far.”

Although JMU has scored 47 points per game, Satur­day could be more of a de­fen­sive deal. Madi­son al­lows an av­er­age of 12 points. UD al­lows an av­er­age of 14.7.

“I think the bot­tom line is you’ve got to be able to con­trol the run game,” Rocco said. “I rec­og­nize that (the Dukes) do so many other things very well that it forces you some­times to take your fo­cus off shut­ting down the run. When that hap­pens to you, you just get carved up. So you’ve got to main­tain some el­e­ment of con­trol with their run game.”

JMU has won 16 straight games, the long­est ac­tive Di­vi­sion I streak in the na­tion. With a vic­tory, the Dukes would match Rich­mond’s CAA record of 17 con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries, set dur­ing the 2008 and 2009 sea­sons.

Rocco said his pri­mary con­cern for his de­fense is third down. Even when the Dukes en­counter third-and-long sit­u­a­tions, they have of­ten moved the chains be­hind the pass­ing and run­ning of se­nior quar­ter­back Bryan Schor. JMU ranks sixth among FCS teams in third-down suc­cess (54.9 per­cent).

“They’ve got it go­ing on pretty good,” said Rocco, Rich­mond’s coach the past five years.

Delaware hosts William & Mary on Oct. 14 and Rich­mond on Oct. 21.



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