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The Press Box Sports

James Madison Dukes vs. Elon Phoenix in Big CAA Football Matchup

James Madison Football Elon Football

Out of all of the big FCS football games this week, the James Madison vs. Elon game could be the biggest out of them all. The Dukes are one of two undefeated teams left in the FCS. Elon lost last week to New Hampshire to lose their first game in CAA play. This is a huge game for the Phoenix as they are trying to get a share of the Colonial Athletic title.

Running Backs:

James Madison has a good duo on the ground in Trai Sharp and Marcus Marshall. Sharp leads the team in rushing and was the hero in last week’s close win against Richmond. Junior Marcus Marshall is also efficient on the ground. The duo averages 4.9 yards per carry and has combined for 10 total touchdowns. They are the force behind James Madison averaging 213 yards per game (20th FCS) this season.

Elon lost leading rusher Malcolm Summers for the season with torn hamstring last month. De’Sean McNair has filled in nicely though. The Jacksonville native has 509 yards and 3 touchdowns this season. McNair had 126 yards against Charleston Southern and 90 yards against a good Villanova defense. He’s getting better with every carry.

Advantage: JMU – Two is better than one and the Dukes are very strong at running back.

Quarterbacks:

Bryan Schor is the nucleus of the James Madison offense. While he isn’t a gunslinger in the pocket, the senior makes good decisions and keeps the offense in rhythm. Schor is completing 67 percent of his passes this year for 2,043 yards. He has connected with his receivers for 21 touchdown passes and sells the play action very well.

For Elon, Davis Cheek is having an impressive start to his collegiate career. As a true freshman, Cheek has performed well for the Phoenix. The Matthews, NC native is completing 60 percent of his passes for 2,105 yards. A Jerry Rice Award candidate, Cheek had his best performance of the year against Villanova, throwing for 357 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Advantage: James Madison – Schor has the experience to be more composed in an important game like this one.

Receivers:

The Dukes aren’t flashy with their receivers, but this is a capable unit. David Eldridge leads this group and is closely followed by Terrance Alls and Ishmael Hyman. Eldridge is the possession receiver while Hyman is the deep threat. He does a great job at gaining separation from defenders. All three guys are capable of making clutch catches.

The Phoenix have a solid trio of receivers in Kortez Weeks, Tre Lennon, and Corey Joyner. Weeks is the team leader with 52 catches for 664 yards. Joyner is the burner of this unit and has 412 yards on the season. Lennon is good over the middle and on the sidelines. These guys confuse secondaries with their crossing routes and are getting in sync with Davis more and more in each game.

Advantage: Elon – They can take the breath out of defenses.

Defense:

The James Madison defense is the main reason why they’re the best in FCS football this season. The Dukes are first in the FCS, giving up only 9.6 points per game. The only defense in the division that has kept opponents to single digit points. As a team, the Dukes have sacked opposing quarterbacks 40 times this season. Senior Andrew Ankrah leads the team with 7.5 sacks and is the anchor on a stout defensive line. Linebacker Kyre Hawkins can do it all. He can terrorize quarterbacks on the pass rush and can drop back into coverage and be a solid defender. He leads the team with 67 tackles. Jordan Brown leads a well-tooled secondary with 6 (2nd FCS) interceptions. Those are the leaders and James Madison has plenty more playmakers on defense than just those guys. This is a defense that is better than many FBS schools. They’ll make it hard for Elon to throw as they give up a league leading 147 passing yards per game.

The Phoenix have a few guys that can get to the quarterback as well. Marcus Willoughby leads the team with 6 sacks. Linebacker Warren Messer is close behind with 5.5 sacks and leads the team with 96 total tackles. Tyler Campbell is the leader in the secondary with 3 interceptions. This is a team that can play well, but they can also breakdown at times. They don’t have the depth that the Dukes have, but these guys can pin their ears back and keep games within reach. The Phoenix are giving up 142 yards on the ground and 233 yards through the air per game this season.

Advantage: James Madison – Don’t really need to explain this one. Just look at the numbers.

Game time is scheduled for noon on Saturday. I’m a little surprised that no tv coverage has yet to be announced. We’ll have a more in-depth keys to the game post for the game later this week.

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