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James Madison, Stony Brook Set to Face Off in 2nd Round of FCS Playoffs

James Madison Stony Brook FCS Football

The FCS Playoffs are all set for second round play this weekend and field another solid lineup of great games. The James Madison Dukes will host the Stony Brook Seawolves. This is an interesting matchup because it was the CAA game that wasn’t. They didn’t play this year. The Dukes won the conference, but the Seawolves were right behind them with just one loss in conference play. Stony Brook easily won last week over Lehigh, but they’ll be in for a dogfight this week against an undefeated James Madison team.

Offensively, both team match up fairly even. They both produce in a big way. James Madison comes in ranked 10th in FCS football, averaging 35.9 points per game. Stony Brook averages 31 points. The Dukes have put up over 4,700 yards of total offense while the Seawolves have totaled over 4,200 yards. Both offenses are somewhat balanced as well. A steady dose of offense on the ground and through the air makes both the Dukes and Seawolves a valid offensive threat.

The defense has been the difference maker between these teams. James Madison is the only FCS team that averages single-digits in scoring defense this season. Giving up just 228.2 yards of total offense is why the Dukes have been so dominant this season and show no signs of slowing down. Stony Brook is giving up a respectable 20.2 points per game (30th FCS) 328.2 (27th FCS) total yards of offense. The numbers can be a little misleading though. The Seawolves tend to fall apart when trying to stop teams on third-down. Something that the Dukes have been spectacular at this season. Red zone defense is another key stat to keep in mind. JMU has allowed just 5 touchdowns inside the twenty, while Stony Brook has given up 22 touchdowns.

Key Matchups:

JMU Passing vs. Stony Brook Secondary

James Madison has a lot of weapons on offense. Quarterback Bryan Schor is a very accurate passer as he ranks 3rd in FCS football with a 68.6 completion percentage. He’s not a gunslinger, but he has great field vision and does a great job at finding the open man. Terrance Alls has just one td reception this year, but he can make big catches and puts the Dukes in a position to score. David Eldridge is a good possession receiver and has the better hands on the team. Ishmael Hyman creates a lot of mismatches with his speed. John Miller will also be a big contributor as he’s tied for a team-leading 33 receptions. Tight End Clayton Cheatham is a go-to-guy in the red zone. The freshman has 4 touchdown catches on just 6 receptions for the season.

Passing coverage has been the weak link on defense for the Seawolves this season. They rank 77th in the FCS, giving up 227 yards per game. Travon Reid-Segure leads Stony Brook with 4 interceptions. Senior Darin Peart adds experience to this group. Gavin Heslop is hit or miss, but he’s a young player with a ton of potential. The sophomore leads the team with eleven break-ups. He hasn’t recorded a pick yet this season so he’s due. Tyrice Beverette will focus more on helping contain the run and that could be a costly mistake for this secondary.

Advantage: James Madison – Schor has great chemistry with all of his receivers and should take advantage of the relaxed coverage that the Seawolves play.

Stony Brook Passing vs. JMU Secondary:

Joe Carbone is a conservative passer for the Seawolves. He struggles with his accuracy at times, but has thrown only 3 interceptions. The Westfield, CT native has thrown for 2,263 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. The receivers have a lot of experience among them. Ray Bolden is the playmaker. The senior leads the team with 66 receptions, 780 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Expect him to draw double-coverage. Harrison Jackson uses his height and is a threat on fade passes, which has contributed to 6 touchdowns. Donavin Washington is use to playing tough secondaries from the high school days on the west coast.

The Dukes are the best in FCS football in stopping aerial attacks, giving up just 145 yards per game. Safety Jordan Brown and cornerback Rashad Robinson are their best defenders. Brown leads the team with 6 interceptions and Robinson has 5 picks of his own. Add Jimmy Moreland and Raven Greene to the mix, and it’s no wonder why JMU gets it done on pass defense. Linebacker Kyre Hawkins is also excellent in the passing game. The d-line will contain the run which will keep the secondary from creeping up and can stay focused on the receivers.

Advantage: James Madison – Bolden could cause problems for the secondary, but they’re too good to let one receiver beat them.

JMU Rushing vs. Stony Brook Rushing Defense:

The Dukes sport a top-20 rushing offense in the FCS and the best in CAA this season. Trai Sharp and Marcus Marshall has been a great one-two punch. The pair have combined for 10 touchdowns, and Sharp leads the team with 686 yards. He has good power and averages 5 yards per carry. Marshall hits openings hard and has good breakaway speed. Taylor Woods adds more depth. While the senior doesn’t get a lot of carries, Woods still averages over 4 yards per carry. Running back depth has been the key to success on the ground this season.

Stony Brook has a stout running defense, giving up 101 yards per game. Stopping the run is a specialty for defensive tackle Jordan Scarbrough. The sophomore has 11 tackles for a loss this year and can plug up running lanes. At 290lbs, he’ll make it hard for the Dukes to be successful running to his side. John Haggart solidifies the rushing defense on the d-line. The big question for the Seawolves is if the front seven can handle the rushing attack on their own. They get a lot of help from Beverette, but he’s going to have his hands full with the receivers.

Advantage: James Madison – The Dukes find a way to get it done on the ground.

Stony Brook Rushing vs JMU Rushing Defense.

With all the talk about JMU’s running backs, it’s easy to forget about the rushing trio from the Seawolves. Don’t do that because these guys are even (if not better) than their counterparts in this game. Stacey Badell and Donald Liotine are a dynamic duo and are one of the best running back tandems in FCS football. Badell has 776 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. Liotine has 694 yards and led the CAA with 10 touchdowns. The junior had his best performance of the year last week against Lehigh with 133 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. At 220 lbs, he’ll pound away at JMU’s d-line with Jordan Gowins. The 225lb junior has 391 yards and 6 touchdowns. All three guys average 4.7 yards per carry or more.

James Madison has the 7th best rushing defense in FCS football, giving up 82 yards per game. If the Stony Brook backs can penetrate the defensive line, Kyre Hawkins will be waiting for them. He’ll be all over the field for the Dukes and will use his speed to cut off outside runs. He can also blast through the offensive line. Andrew Ankrah has stopped running backs behind the line of scrimmage six times this year. Throw in Cornell Urquhart, Simeyon Robinson and Darrious Carter, and you’ll see why James Madison effectively stops the run. Just like virtually everywhere else, James Madison is deep on the defensive line. They won’t wear down so easy.

Advantage: James Madison – Stony Brook will put the Dukes through a tough test on the ground, but JMU has a lot of speed in their front seven. This would be a pick where I wouldn’t be surprised to be wrong though.

It’s obvious that I’m going with James Madison in this game, but it’s going to be a lot closer than one would think. Stony Brook is a well-built team. They lack the depth overall that the Dukes have, but the Seawolves are good. I think this game will go down to the wire, but James Madison will pull out the victory and advance. They’re too strong in too many places.

Game time is set for Saturday, Dec. 2nd at 2pm. If you can’t make the game in person, you can watch it on ESPN3. And I expect you to do so. There’s a lot of great FCS Playoff matchups this weekend and this game should be at the top of those matchups.