The Sports Network
By Sean Shapiro, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 26th, 12:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Roy Kidd Stadium (22,000) - Richmond, Kentucky. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN U/ESPN3.com. Announcers: Pam Ward and Dan Hawkins. Home record: James Madison 4-1, Eastern Kentucky 4-2. Road record: James Madison 3-3, Eastern Kentucky 3-2. Conference: James Madison - Colonial Athletic Conference; Eastern Kentucky - Ohio Valley. Nicknames: James Madison Dukes; Eastern Kentucky Colonels. Series record: First meeting. Head coaches: James Madison - Mickey Matthews (13th season, 95-60 at James Madison and overall); Eastern Kentucky - Dean Hood (fourth season, 26-19 at Eastern Kentucky and overall). Playoff records: James Madison (8-9, one national championship 2004); Eastern Kentucky (16-17, two national championships 1979, 1982). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: James Madison 9 (1987, 91, 94-95, 99, 2004, 2006-08); Eastern Kentucky 19 (1979-84, 86-95, 97, 2007-08).
GAME NOTES: A playoff match-up that no one would have dreamed about a month ago, both teams benefited from final regular-season losses by Indiana State, Furman and Youngstown State to receive at-large berths. Of the four first- round games, this is the only one with teams that have past FCS playoff appearances, and the two schools have combined for three national championships.
The offenses are similar units, both running the ball often and ranking in the bottom 10 for passing yards. Running back Matt Denham (131.4 ypg) is the go-to guy in Eastern Kentucky's offense and has rushed for at least 142 yards in his past seven games. Scoring nine touchdowns since getting starter's carries in Week 5, Denham's presence takes pressure off of quarterback T.J. Pryor, who has thrown a touchdown pass almost every 10 completions.
James Madison's offense will counter with sophomore running back Dae'Quan Scott (106 ypg), who had a scintillating 30-carry, 251-yard and two-touchdown performance last week to help the Dukes reach the playoffs. The quarterback situation at James Madison has been rocky, as Justin Thorpe and Jace Edwards have split the starts but combined to throw for just 1,274 yards (115.8 ypg) and seven touchdowns - the least of any team in the playoffs.
With its offensive struggles, James Madison's saving grace has been its impressive defense, which ranks in the top 20 for scoring (19.3 ppg) and total (305 ypg) defense. With six of the 11 starters earning some form of All-CAA honors, the Dukes have a talented unit that excels against the run (95.5 ypg), a match-up that could contain Eastern Kentucky's run-heavy offense.
The Colonels defense hasn't been nearly as impressive, showing vulnerability in its past five games and allowing 147 points (29.4 ppg). A unit without a superstar, Eastern Kentucky has a decent defensive line and linebacking corp, but no one player whom James Madison will have to game plan around.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: James Madison 20, Eastern Kentucky 13.
11/22 16:37:31 ET