Much at stake for JMU against Richmond

HARRISONBURG — There’s plenty at stake in Saturday’s homecoming football game for James Madison University.

The No. 3 ranked Dukes host No. 12 ranked University of Richmond with first place in the Colonial Athletic Association on the line. Both teams have high-powered offenses. The game, which starts at 3:30 p.m., could play a big role in the upcoming Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Of course, there’s also the hype surrounding ESPN’s “College GameDay” taping from Harrisonburg on Saturday morning.

Despite all of that, JMU head coach Everett Withers said his players and coaching staff are treating it just like any other game.

“We’re going to do the same things we do every week,” Withers said. “We’ve put a system in place. …Really every game we play is a big game. We don’t talk about an opponent one way or another. Every game is a big game to us.”

The Dukes (7-0, 4-0 CAA) are averaging 48.7 points and 613.0 yards per game.

JMU quarterback Vad Lee continues to lead the way with 1,896 passing yards and 690 yards rushing.

Running backs Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson have combined for 1,423 yards and 18 touchdowns.

The Spiders (5-1, 3-0 CAA) are allowing 26.2 points and 420.0 yards per contest. Withers said he expects a real battle from Richmond.

“Our opponents got a couple very good running backs, very talented, good offensive line,” Withers said. “They do a nice job on defense of doing what they do. They don’t beat themselves. They’re very good in the kicking game. We’re going to have to play a high level of football to go win the football game, because we’re playing a very talented opponent.”

The Spiders are averaging 41.2 points and 513.4 yards per game. They’ve done it with a balanced attack.

Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta has thrown for 1,447 yards and eight touchdowns. Wide receiver Reggie Diggs has 24 receptions for 354 yards, and Brian Brown has 19 catches for 388 yards.

Running backs Jacobi Green and Seth Fisher have combined for 588 yards. The Spiders have rushed for 1,032 yards as a team.

JMU redshirt junior linebacker Gage Steele said the Dukes look forward to playing against a strong offense.

“It’s definitely a great challenge,” Steele said. “Our next opponent is definitely disciplined at what they do. They got good running backs. They got a good wide recever group. As a whole offense they’re very good. It is a challenge, and its something that we want to step up to and we like that kind of stuff.”

The Dukes are coming off a shutout over Elon University and are allowing 21.0 points per contest.

Withers said that he’s been proud of the way his team has handled themselves over the first seven weeks of the season, and he expects that to continue this week.

With all of the attention on ESPN coming to JMU, Withers said he hopes everyone remembers that ESPN is there because of the great match-up between the teams.

“GameDay don’t come here if they don’t have two really good teams,” Withers said. “So hats off to our players and coaches for both schools. If that school we’re playing this week isn’t very good, they ain’t coming. …It should be an exciting game, Everybody ought to have a butt in the seat and see the game.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com