By Tommy Keeler Jr.
James Madison is in an unusual position. Entering the last game of the regular season, the Dukes are already out of Football Championship Subdivision playoff contention.
The Dukes will travel to Towson for a 3 p.m. game today at Minnegan Field/Johnny Unitas Stadium, and JMU coach Mickey Matthews admitted he wasn't sure how his team would respond.
"This is uncharted waters," Matthews said. "Even if we didn't make the playoffs, we've always been in the playoff hunt going into the final weekend of the season. We'll just have to see how we handle it."
The Dukes have lost two games in a row for the first time this season. They lost to Stony Brook, 41-38, last weekend for their first home loss of the year. JMU hasn't won a road game this year.
JMU (6-5) still has a chance to finish over .500, and Matthews said he thinks his players will still be motivated against the Tigers.
"I think we'll play hard," Matthews said. "We can't have a losing season, but they want to have a winning season. I'm sure they'll play hard and come ready to play."
It will be anything but easy for the Dukes going up against a very talented Towson squad.
The Tigers (9-2) are led by running back Terrance West, who has rushed for 1,765 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. West leads the CAA in rushing by more than 500 yards.
Towson ranks first in scoring offense, averaging 38.0 points per game. The Tigers are also first in rushing offense, averaging 246.5 yards per game on the ground.
The Dukes have the top rushing defense in the league, allowing only 97.5 yards per game on the ground.
Towson coach Rob Ambrose said it will be a tough matchup for the Tigers, especially facing JMU linebacker Stephon Robertson, who leads the CAA with 130 tackles, including 46 solo.
"I would like to comment on all three phases of [JMU's] game, but I can't because because I'm stuck on [Robertson]," Ambrose said. "I can't take my eyes off of him. I know we have an Offensive Player of the Year, and a Defensive Player of the Year, but we might have to have a The Player of the Year, because I would vote for [Robertson]."
Towson is also solid on the defensive side of the ball, led by senior linebacker Telvion Clark (99 tackles, 4.5 sacks).
The Tigers are second in the league in rushing defense, allowing 113.3 yards per game. They are also allowing just 21.2 points per game, which is fourth in the league.
JMU's offense has been up and down this season. Last week the Dukes started off slowly offensively, but scored 21 points in the second half.
The biggest issue for the Dukes has been their secondary. A lack of depth and injuries have hurt the Dukes all season. JMU ranks last in the CAA in pass defense, giving up 258.5 yards per game. Towson is averaging 229.6 yards per game through the air.
Win or lose, Towson should get a spot in the postseason, but Ambrose said his team still has plenty to play for.
"We still have a home game -- and it's Senior Day," Ambrose said. "This group of seniors has helped build the foundation that's going to benefit us for years, and we need to celebrate that.
"There is no [comfortableness] because there is a football game and we need to prepare for it. When we get in between those white lines, it doesn't matter if the we're playing at home or in Mars -- it's a football game, and we need to win it."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd