James Madison University’s football team has been faced with all types of challenges this season. Today the Dukes face another one as they try to slow down the University of Richmond’s high-powered offense at 3:30 p.m. at Bridgeforth Stadium.
It is also senior day for the Dukes.
“They have two of the top receivers in the league and a third that’s right there near the top,” JMU head football coach Mike Houston said. “They’ve got one of the top quarterbacks in the country. So certainly we’re going to be challenged massively there on the defensive side of the ball. We’re going to have to do a great job of focusing on the play right in front of us and defending from sideline to sideline.”
The Spiders (5-4, 3-3 CAA) are led by quarterback Kyle Lauletta. The senior has thrown for 3,212 yards on 241-for-370 passing. He has 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Houston said Lauletta is one the best quarterbacks in Football Championship Subdivision.
“He’s obviously a gifted athlete,” Houston said. “He can throw it exceptionally. He can run it very well. He’s a smart player, a great competitor. He has talented receivers, solid offensive line, good running game. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge — probably the biggest challenge we’ve had defensively this entire year. He’s one of the best in our league. He’s one of the best in the country. He’s one that I think you’ll see playing on Sundays after college.”
Xavier Goddall leads Richmond’s running game. Goddall has rushed for 255 yards and one touchdown. Running back Gordon Collins has 214 yards and four touchdowns for the Spiders.
The receiving corps is led by Dejon Brissett, who has 62 catches for 889 yards and seven scores. Cortelle Simpson has 54 receptions for 868 yards and five touchdowns and Tyler Wilkins has 49 catches for 673 yards and six touchdowns for the Spiders.
Houston said Richmond’s depth at wide receiver makes it very tough to defend the Spiders’ offense.
“I think it makes you defend the field,” Houston said. “You can’t sit there and just focus on one receiver. Much like last week, Rhode Island had multiple guys that had big play game-changing ability. Same thing this week with Richmond.”
The Spiders are averaging 30.3 points and 470.3 yards per game.
The Dukes (9-0, 6-0 CAA) have the top-ranked defense in Football Championship Subdivision. JMU leads FCS in points (9.2) and yards (218.2) per game.
JMU senior linebacker Kyre Hawkins leads the team with 61 tackles. Hawkins and senior defensive lineman Andrew Ankrah each have seven sacks.
JMU is averaging 38.2 points and 442.1 yards per contest. JMU senior quarterback Bryan Schor has thrown for 1,814 yards on 152-for-219 passing with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
JMU senior wide receiver Terrence Alls has 26 catches for 344 yards and one touchdown in just five games.
On Thursday night, the FCS playoff selection committee announced that JMU is still No. 1 in their rankings with two weeks left in the regular season. The playoff selection show will be held at 11 a.m. on Nov. 19 on ESPNU.
The Dukes have won a Colonial Athletic Association record 21 straight games.
Richmond is one of JMU’s top rivals. Houston said even though it’s a rivalry game he believes his players will stay focused.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere, sold out crowd,” Houston said. “Two very good football teams. This is what you work for. This is what you prepare for. So I think our kids have enough experience that they’ll be able to handle the emotion.”