PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – James Madison (4-2) travels to Pennsylvania for their upcoming CAA contest against Villanova (3-3). Both teams, coming off three point losses in the previous week, look to get back in the win column heading into the second half of the season.
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JMU, upset by Elon 27-24 on a last minute touchdown, saw their 20-game CAA and 19 game home win streak come to a disappointing end. Previously 1st in the CAA, the Dukes now switched ranks with Elon who were 5th in the CAA, now 1st. Villanova, last and winless in the CAA standings, are a clear underdog but pose a challenge for the Dukes. A team hungry for its first CAA win coming off a 13-10 loss on a 52-yard field goal as time expired versus Maine.
Running Back Comparison
The backfield for JMU is versatile with many of their running backs exposing opposing defenses and exploding for long touchdowns. JMU running backs have totaled more than 100 yards rushing in every game in the 2018 campaign. JMU RBs Marcus Marshall, Trai Sharp and Cardon Johnson share the majority of the handoffs from QB Ben DiNucci. All three have combined for 780 yards and 7 touchdowns in six games on the season.
Villanova RB Aaron Forbes, has established himself as the lead rusher for the Wildcats. Promoted to team captain for the 2018 season, Forbes has rushed for 400 yards in six games, and ran it to the house 4 times in his last three games (only 5 TDs on season, other TD was a reception).
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The JMU offense has proved capable of rotating running backs, with all three fulfilling different roles throughout the course of the season. It will be interesting to see how two completely different rush offenses will compete this Saturday. Expect JMU to continue rotating between their three running backs to keep the Villanova defense guessing. Expect Aaron Forbes to receive most of the touches out of the backfield for the Wildcats if he can gain yardage early on in the game. If not, expect ‘Nova to be a pass-heavy offense.
BEN DINUCCI, JR. – JMU VS. ZACH BEDNARCZYK, SR – VILLANOVA
Another key matchup in this game is the comparison of QBs. The Pitt transfer, DiNucci, had a solid game against Elon, but only found the end-zone one time on 24 completions (1 INT) for 316 yards. Although he threw for his highest single-game yardage of the season, DiNucci completed just 59% of his passes (41 attempts), his lowest percentage of the season.
Zach Bednarczyk, another team captain for the Wildcats, is expected to finish the 2018 season among the best QBs in the CAA. He has thrown for 1,319 yards and 12 touchdowns on 97 completions in five games. Although his statistics on the season are impressive, Bednarczyk seems to be slowing down. He threw for 858 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first three games; since then, he has thrown for 461 yards and 2 touchdowns in his last two games.
Both QBs rank amongst the top 10 in the CAA in passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing percentage, and completions per game (Bednarczyk leads CAA in this category).
BATTLE ON DEFENSE
Both defenses are prolific in stopping the pass. JMU is 2nd in the CAA in pass defense allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 45 percent of their pass attempts. Villanova, 5th in the CAA in this category, allows opposing quarterbacks to complete 62% of their passes.
Villanova DB Rob Rolle is 7th in the CAA in tackles per game (8.7) and Line Backer, Jeff Steeb, is tied for 5th in the CAA in sacks (2), and 9th in the CAA in tackles for a loss (3.5).
JMU Cornerback Jimmy Moreland leads all CAA in interceptions (4) and passes defended.
It will be interesting to see how both defenses line up against productive and powerful offenses.
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