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The CAA Today: Fourth Quarter Football

floated rightTerence Thomas, Sr. CSN CAA Today columnist

In a close contest, head coaches want to shorten the game in the fourth quarter. When playing from ahead, teams tend to want to run the ball and eat up some clock, and keep the ball away from their opponents. When playing from behind, you’re conscious of field position, weather, and the clock. You have to manage time and your time outs wisely if you’re seeking to come from behind to win a game.

In the Northeast, the weather is always cold and raw come November. During these inclement weather conditions, it’s always a good idea to play “Smash Mouth”, physical, grind it out football. In most cases, this brand of football will win you championships regardless of the weather.

Just last week, while it wasn’t terribly cold, the CAA did have a little rain to contend with. I’ll discuss how those teams fared.

...

In last week’s column, I provided a Mid-Season review, giving you standings and my opinions on who’s in and who’s out with regard to the playoff chase. I’ll continue to provide standings and who’s in and out until the conclusion of the season when we know who the playoff participants are.

THE STANDINGS

North: CAA Overall
New Hampshire 3 – 1 6 – 1
Massachusetts 2 – 2 4 – 3
Maine 2 – 2 3 – 4
Hofstra 2 – 3 4 – 4
Northeastern 1 – 3 1 – 6
Rhode Island 0 – 4 1 – 6

South:
Richmond 5 – 0 7 – 0
Villanova 4 – 1 7 – 1
William & Mary 3 – 1 6 – 1
Delaware 3 – 2 5 – 2
Towson 1 – 3 2 – 5
James Madison 0 – 4 2 – 5

The Contenders:

Nothing’s changed for the top four (UNH, UR, VU, & W&M). All four won and have only improved their chances for the conference title and possible seeding in the playoffs. None of them play each other this week. Richmond has a chance to get that 8th win virtually assuring them of a playoff spot, while UNH & W&M can join the “7 win clubs”.

On the Bubble:

Both UMass, and HU took losses this past week, basically forcing them into a must win scenario for the remainder of the season. The Pride will be on a bye, while the Minutemen travel to Maine. Delaware is coming off a bye and will be hosting a hated arch rival, JMU. In ‘07, JMU put a shellacking on the Blue Hens who were struggling at the QB position 41 – 7. Now the Dukes will visit Tubby Raymond field with their own QB problems. Just how will the Blue Hens respond???? All three teams should still be on the bubble after this week, presuming the real UMass team shows up in Orono.

Contenders No More:

Okay, JMU is no longer mathematically alive. They along with the rest can officially play spoiler, and give their seniors some playing time to end their college careers as well as some youngsters to get a leg up on next season.

CAA IN THE GPI

1. Colonial Athletic Association (24.46)
1. Richmond (1.00)
2. Villanova (2.75)
4. William & Mary (3.75)
7. New Hampshire (7.63)
10. Delaware (10.88)
14. Massachusetts (14.75)
30. James Madison (27.38)
33. Hofstra (29.50)
34. Maine (31.25)
67. Northeastern (51.75)
75. Rhode Island (56.25)
77. Towson (56.63)

GAME RECAPS

In the Towson @ Northeastern game, TU limped into Boston without their starting QB, and down to their third string center, and a shuffled offensive line. The Tigers fell behind early and could not establish a running game. On the day, TU had eight net yards rushing. Through the air, TU put the ball up 42 times, completing only 15, and surrendering five interceptions. The Tigers used 3 QB’s in this game.

The Huskies got their first score from Sr. NG, Mike Lukenda (Downingtown, Pa) as he intercepted a screen pass, and ran it back 20 yards for the touchdown giving the Huskies a 7 – 0 lead in the first quarter. The Huskies next score came on a 10 yard run around right end by So., RB, Elijah Harris (North Attleboro, Ma.) to give the Huskies a 14 – 0 lead with just under 6 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter. TU had given NU the ball on the TU 10 yard line after a bad snap while attempting to punt. It only took NU one play to score.

NU got its next big play midway through the second quarter as Jr. RB, John Griffin(Westminster, Ma) found a seam up the middle and raced 70 yards for the TD. This gave NU a 21 – 0 lead. Sr. K, Matt Johnson (Ankeny, Ia.) ended the first half scoring by hitting a 32 yard FG to give the Huskies a 24 – 0 lead.

TU’s best drive of the day came in the third quarter as Jr. QB, Jeremy Jayne (Clarks Summit, Pa.) drove the Tigers 81 yards in six plays hitting Sr. TE, John Godlasky (Hummelstown, Pa.) on a 6 yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 24 – 7. NU’s Johnson connected again from 35 yards out later in the quarter to end the scoring at 27 – 7 Huskies.

Speaking of the 4th quarter, the Huskies ended each Tiger drive with an interception (4 straight possessions that actually began in the 3rd quarter). The Huskies held the ball for 10:48 compared to the Tigers 4:12. Coach Rocky Hager stated in his teleconference call that they wanted to run the ball more in the second half to shorten the game. The five turnovers helped clinch the Huskies first win of 2009.

In the New Hampshire @ Hofstra game, rain, wind, defense, special teams, turnovers, referee calls, and a little bit of luck decided the outcome.

In their opening drive, HU fumbled the ball to UNH on the Pride 22 yard line. Five plays later, Sr. K, Tom Manning(Rome, NY) hit a 30 yd FG to give UNH a 3 – 0 lead.

On the next HU drive, Sr. QB, Cory Christopher (Miami, Fl) hit Jr. WR, Aaron Weaver (Freeport, NY) on a sliding 20 yd TD pass. However, the officials ruled Weaver didn’t have possession, and the Pride had to settle for a 38 yd FG, that missed wide right.

With just over 2 minutes remaining in the half, Jr. RB, Everette Benjamin (Massapequa, NY) ran for a 25 yard TD on 4th & 1, but the play was negated due to holding. On 4th & 10, the Pride went for it again, but came up empty as Christopher was tackled 5 yards short.

The score at halftime was UNH 3 – HU 0. HU had 104 total yards at the half to UNH’s 67. HU held the ball for 21 minutes, where UNH only had the ball for 8 minutes. Each team had 1 turnover, which neither could capitalize on.

Not having done much in the first half, UNH made some adjustments and came out of the halftime on fire as Jr. QB, R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Ca.) led the Cats on a 5 play, 81 yard drive, hitting So, WR, Mickey Mangieri (Pound Ridge, NY) on a 40 yard TD pass to extend the Cats lead to 10 – 0.

HU wouldn’t get untracked until its second drive of the 3rd quarter, when Christopher engineered a 7 play, 44 yard drive, ending with Christopher running it in himself from 3 yards out for the TD. The score now stood at 10 – 7 UNH.

It was a close game going into the 4th quarter. HU was unable to do anything with its first possession. The Wildcats drove 31 yards in 8 plays, and with the wind at their backs took a gamble on a 54 yard FG. Manning’s shot was true, breaking a UNH school record, and a Shuart stadium record. The Cats led 13 – 7.

On the very next HU possession facing 4th & 3 from their 44, HU attempted to punt, but the snap sailed over the punters head, forcing the punter to run out of the back of the end zone with the ball giving UNH a 15 – 7 lead. After getting the free kick, UNH drove 19 yards in six plays, allowing Manning to strike again, this time from 44 yards out giving the Wildcat an 18 – 7 lead.

The Pride would get the ball back with 5:36 left to go in the game. Christopher led the Pride on a 10 play, 59 yard drive that would end in a 38 yard FG by Sr. K, Henry Greco (Franklin Square, NY) closing the score to 18 – 10. With 2 ½ minutes remaining in the game, HU had to try an onside kick, and it worked. Christopher guided the Pride to the 6 yard line. On 4th & goal, with 42 seconds left in the game, Christopher tried to pass the ball to Benjamin, but the ball was deflected at the line of scrimmage and sailed out of reach. The Cats ran out the clock to secure the victory.

Coach Sean McDonnell stated in his teleconference call that his team did just enough to win, and he had nothing but praise for his kicker Tom Manning. Coach Dave Cohen likes the way his team is improving, stating they’re competing better than they were this time last year. Coach Cohen still thinks the team can improve upon their fundamentals and their execution. The Pride will use a much needed bye to get healthy and work on their execution, and the Wildcats will host Northeastern this coming Saturday.

In the James Madison @ William & Mary game there was a lot of defense played in the first half as both teams struggled to maintain any type of momentum. The second half saw the Tribe pull away as their rushing game took over, as did the play of Rs., Sr., QB, R.J. Archer (Earlysville, Va.).

The Tribe’s opening drive looked promising as they drove from their 40 to the Dukes 28 in 5 plays, but Archer would get intercepted by Rs. LB., Chase Williams (Gaithersburg, MD). After that, neither team did much until about 1:30 left in the 1st quarter. With 1st & 10 from their 31, So, RB, Jonathan Grimes (Palmyra, NJ) would explode out of the backfield for a 61 yard run (his longest of the season). Two plays later, Archer would roll out right and find Rs., Sr., TE, Rob Varno (Wilmington, NC) for a 9 yard TD pass to give the Tribe a 7 – 0 lead.

The Dukes followed the Tribe’s score with a FG of their own from 44 yards out to bring the score to 7 – 3. The Tribe ended the first half with a 34 yard FG to make the score 10 – 3. This drive took 10 plays and covered 70 yards. Prior to this drive, and subsequent to the Grimes run, there wasn’t much offense by either team. The Tribe had 189 yards of total offense in the first half and only 10 points to show for it. JMU had 106 yards of total offense and only 3 points to show for it. Each team had only one turnover to this point, but neither could take advantage.

The third quarter looked like it was going to be more of the same as the Tribe fumbled the ball away to JMU on their opening drive. JMU could only muster 3 yards in 3 plays and had to punt the ball back to W&M. Here is where Archer and company would take control of the game..

Archer drove the Tribe 80 yards in 14 plays, finishing the drive with a 18 yard TD pass to So. TE, Alex Gottlieb (Delray Beach, Fl) for a 17 – 3 lead.

Try as they may, the JMU offense was simply no match for the much more physical Tribe Defense. JMU head coach, Mickey Matthews stated in his teleconference call that he could not remember when the Tribe defense was as good, if not better than the Tribe offense.

With 9 minutes to go in the game, Archer would engineer a final drive of 59 yards in 8 plays, finished off by a Grimes 9 yard TD run to give the game its final score of 24 – 3.

In the 4th quarter, W&M snapped the ball 18 times, and chose to run the ball 15 of those 18 times in an effort to shorten the game and wear down the Dukes. The Tribe had not beaten the Dukes in their last 5 tries. This victory made homecoming even more festive.

The Dukes travel to Delaware this coming Saturday, while the Tribe will travel to Rhode Island.

In the Rhode Island @ Villanova game, there was not a dry spot to be found. What began as a drizzle, became a steady and heavy downpour by the 4th quarter. At times you had to wonder how the defenders on the field knew who had the ball. Villanova’s not famous for packing them in, so when the heavens opened up, the faithful few dwindled down to just family and friends.

Villanova head coach Andy Talley secured his 200th victory as a head coach placing him in very rare company. The Wildcats sloshed 500 yards of total offense while limiting the Rams to 151. The Cats ran off 74 plays an average of 6.8 yards a play. The Cats ran the ball 57 times for 376 yards. Rhode Island only had 56 plays from scrimmage.

The Cats had a 21 – 0 lead on its way to making it 28 when a fumble early in the 3rd quarter gave the ball back to the Rams. URI Jr. QB, Chris Paul-Etienne (Miami, Fl) drove the Rams 46 yards in 9 plays connecting with So. WR, Tyquan Bynum (Lancaster, Pa.) on a 7 yard TD pass to close the score to 21 – 7. Nova would tack on two more TD’s to give it its final score of 36 – 7. To add insult to injury, after the 5th TD, the Rams would block the PAT, only to have the ball fall into the hands of Nova Jr. TE, Chris Farmer (Philadelphia, Pa) who ran it in for the 2 pt conversion.

The Cats celebrated their homecoming with their 7th win of the season. They will enjoy a bye week and try to get some players healthy prior to traveling to Richmond on Nov. 7. As URI head coach, Joe Trainer would say it, “The Rams are a work in progress”. Coach Trainer is looking at the future, and he believes the future is bright with his ever improving squad.

In the Massachusetts @ Richmond game, it was another game where the rain just didn’t let up. However, with the way that Richmond is playing, you have to wonder, if they didn’t somehow know how to make it rain. The Spider defense aka “Stonewall” defense was just as relentless as the rain. Richmond ran away with a 32 – 14 victory.

The Spiders currently have the longest FCS win streak at 16 games. This team is like James Bond, no matter how many times you have them down and out, they refuse to lose. This game with Massachusetts was never in question, but you have to start looking at Richmond with admiration. With a little luck, the Spiders could very well be looking at repeating as National Champions.

The Minutemen fresh off of their upset of UNH was hoping to come down into UR and steal a road win. But, like with most things that enter a web, you seldom come out whole. The UR defense forced the Minutemen into making 7 turnovers, six of them were interceptions. UMass head coach, Kevin Morris said that weather didn’t have anything to do with it. Some bad decisions were made, and UR made some good plays on defense. UMass was down two of their leading running backs, and when they got down, they tried to get back in the game by throwing the ball. The Spiders held the Minutemen to just 62 yards rushing on the day and 215 yards passing.

Richmond Rs. Sr., RB, Justin Forte (Marietta, Ga) had a good day rushing as he ran the ball 26 times for 118 yards and 2 TD’s. As a team, UR had 184 yards on the ground. UR had the 6 interceptions for 110 return yards and 1 TD.

The Spiders have that swagger of a champion. Seven times, would be challengers have stepped up to try and knock the defending champs off their perch in ‘09, and seven times the Spiders stood tall in dismissing their weaker opponents. This teams confidence and expectation of winning has grown each week. If this team survives Nova on the 7th, there may not be anyone left in FCS that can take them down.

GAME PREVIEWS

Last week, I was perfect at 5 – 0, but last week was an easy one to call. My won/loss total is now 44 – 15 and I’ve slowly crept up to 74% correct on the year.

#14 Massachusetts (4 – 3, 2 – 2) @ Maine (3 – 4, 2 – 2) @ 3:30
TV: Comcast SportsNet – Mid-Atlantic Plus, New England, Philadelphia
Series: Massachusetts leads 40 – 14 – 1
Coming off of a bye week, the Black Bears will look to improve upon its running game, while taking advantage of what So. QB., Warren Smith (Forked River, NJ) can do with his arm. Sr. Wr, Landis Williams (Pemberton, NJ) will look to try and take advantage of the UMass secondary.. If UMass has hopes of making the playoffs, they cannot afford to lose this game. Coach Morris and his staff have some kinks to work out, but should be able to do just enough to escape Orono with the win.
Upset meter [—–5—-] Minutemen 23 Black Bears 16.

James Madison (2 – 5, 0 – 4 @ #10 Delaware (5 – 2, 3 – 2) @ 12:00
TV: The Comcast Network, Comcast SportsNet – New England
Series: Delaware leads 11 – 7
The REVENGE factor. Do teams really hate each other?? When two good teams battle each other every year, does the winner and loser carry the feelings from the last contest a year ago to the present contest??? How much of a heated rivalry is this game??? Will the Blue Hen fans absolutely sell out Tubby Raymond field, and yell with every bit of emotion and passion at the top of their lungs when things go right for their football team. Will they boo the Dukes into submission??? Will the Dukes get off the bus??? Will the Duke fans travel to support their team??? The Dukes would not be guilty of being fair weather fans, would they?? Coach Matthews has said that the Blue Hens have become an option team. The Blue Hens have changed in mid season what it is that they do. Coach Matthews did not have answers as to what it is the Dukes can change to help their cause..

UD will look to continue to improve upon its running game. UD knows it will need to be able to run when they take on Navy and Nova to conclude the season. UD will not look past JMU as there is that score to settle from last year. The Dukes are playing out the string as they no longer have any bark, nor bite left in them to even play spoiler.
Upset Meter [0—] Blue Hens 38 Dukes 7.

Northeastern (1 – 6, 1 – 3) @ #7 New Hampshire (6 – 1, 3 – 1) @ 12:00
TV: None
Series: New Hampshire leads 40 – 14 – 1
Northeastern, fresh off their initial win of the season will try to make it two in a row as they travel to Durham to take on the Wildcats. The Huskies have Jr. QB, Alex Dulski (Walpole, Ma) back from injuries to lead the Husky offense. After a narrow victory in Long Island, the Wildcats are happy to be back in the comforts of Durham where they are undefeated in 09. Look for Wildcat QB, R.J. Toman to find TE Scott Sicko running one of his seam routes for a score, and the running of Chad Kackert and Sean Jellison to keep the Husky defense off balance.
Upset Meter [0—] Wildcats 35 Huskies 13.

#4 William & Mary (6 – 1, 3 – 1) @ Rhode Island (1 – 6, 0 – 4) @ 1:00
TV: None
Series: William & Mary leads 10 – 2
The Rams will try to win with youth. Coach Trainer believes the Rams are getting better with each game and in the long run his team will be better by playing the younger guys. The Tribe are on a mission to get into the playoffs in 09. They will waste little time in scoring and seizing the momentum early. The Tribe will look to shorten this game by running the ball enroute to their 7th win.
Upset Meter [0—] Tribe 33 Rams 10.

#1 Richmond (7 – 0, 5 – 0) @ Towson (2 – 5, 1 – 3) @ 1:00
TV: None
Series: Richmond leads 3 – 2
The Tigers are without their starting QB, and are limping their way to the finish line. The Spiders will take their 8th win with ease as it prepares for its showdown with Nova on the 7th.
Upset Meter [0—] Spiders 42 Tigers 7..

Thanks to JMU alumnus, class of 02’, Eric Garcia, and Richmond Spider fan, Larry Boppe for the kind emails this past week.

As always keep the emails and comments coming to CAATODAY@YAHOO.COM, and I’ll do my best to get back to you with a response.

CAATODAY signing off.