Saturday at 12 p.m.
Wildcat Stadium in Durham, N.H.
UNH is 4-2, 3-0; JMU is 5-1, 3-0
Key Matchup: The Wildcat run defense vs. the Dukes rushing attack
James Madison University is second in the FCS in rushing, averaging 339.8 yards per game, and fourth in scoring offense, averaging 44.8 points per game. Running backs Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson, as well as quarterback Bryan Schor, lead this dynamic rushing attack. Abdullah, a senior, is fifth in the country with 132.8 rushing yards per game and second in rushing touchdowns with 11. JMU will spread the field, but the offense operates through their two running backs.
UNH’s run defense has vastly improved from 2015, but hasn’t seen a team as explosive as the Dukes to date. Elon was limited to 2.2 yards per carry last Friday by the ‘Cats, gaining 65 yards. Defensive tackle Rick Holt will look to remain productive clogging up running lanes, accumulating a season-high seven tackles against the Phoenix. The Wildcats will rely on freshman safety Pop Lacey to continue to make plays all over the field, leading the team with 40 tackles on the season.
UNH rushing attack
Head coach Sean McDonnell expects junior running back Trevon Bryant to return against JMU as the change of pace back to Dalton Crossan, after sitting out last week at Elon with turf toe.. Crossan received a career-high 28 carries in Bryant’s absence, rushing for 152 yards at Elon. With 45 yards on Saturday Crossan will become the 10th UNH rusher to surpass the 2,000-yard mark in school history. The Dukes have allowed an average of 152.8 rushing yards per game this year so expect McDonnell to get Crossan and Bryant the ball often.
UNH passing offense
Senior tight end Jordan Powell will make his first start of the season on Saturday, an expected big boost for a Wildcats passing game that has struggled. Powell will add a fourth consistent receiving threat for UNH, as only three Wildcats have more than four receptions on the season. Quarterback Trevor Knight has struggled moving the ball through the air without Powell, averaging 151.3 passing yards per game.
JMU rushing attack
The Dukes have the only FCS offense with over 2,000 rushing yards this season and 28 rushing touchdowns. The UNH front seven will have their hands full with Abdullah and the other various weapons. An emphasis for McDonnell and his team this week in preparation has been tackling, knowing that a missed tackle can result in a big play for JMU at any moment. Abdullah ran for 194 yards and three touchdowns last week against the College of William & Mary.
JMU passing offense
The James Madison offense goes through the running game, but the aerial attack is nothing to sleep on. Schor, a junior, has a pass efficiency of 150.3, good for first in the Colonial Athletic Association. Schor has thrown three interceptions and has three senior receivers to trust on the outside. Brandon Ravenel, Domo Taylor and Terrence Alls all have over 150 yards receiving and a touchdown in 2016, posing a challenge for the Wildcats’ young secondary.
Impact Player: DeVaughn Chollette
The senior linebacker is second in tackles with 38 and leads the team in tackles for loss with 6.5. With Abdullah and Johnson terrorizing defenses this fall, Chollette and the rest of the defense have a tall task in slowing them down. Abdullah is second in the FCS with 797 yards rushing and Johnson is also in the top 10 with 540 yards. UNH will be a lot better off putting the Dukes in third and long situations, meaning if Chollette can get into the backfield and make big plays against the run it will pay off.
Chollette is five tackles away from joining senior captain Casey DeAndrade as the only active Wildcats with 200 career tackles. He recorded over 60 tackles in both of his healthy seasons, and is on pace to mark a career high this season. Expect a busy day for Chollette against the run, as JMU has rushed on 69.5 percent of their offensive plays through their first six games.