CAA News & Notes: Conference Play Is Heating Up

W&M's Nate Atkins Is Living 'Greatest Honor'

Themes are beginning to emerge around the league as we sink our teeth into a Week 6 slate that features a grudge match of sorts for soaring Villanova and yet another Top 25 clash — this one, between No. 2 James Madison and No. 24 Stony Brook.

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Straight from the CAA news desk, here's what's on tap for Week 6:

Four Conference Games On Week 6 Schedule

Four of the five games on the Week 6 schedule are conference matchups. Highlighting the slate is a Top 25 clash as No. 2 James Madison takes its four-game winning streak to No. 24 Stony Brook, which has won 12 straight at home. No. 5 Villanova, which is the only 5-0 team in FCS football, visits William & Mary, New Hampshire entertains Elon, and Richmond hosts UAlbany. The lone non-conference contest is a battle for the Governors Cup as Rhode Island faces Brown.

CAA Games Provide Plenty Of Excitement

Five of the nine CAA games played this season have gone down to the wire. Last week, Stony Brook edged Rhode Island, 31-27, on Tyquell Fields’ 50-yard TD run with 11 seconds to play, and UAlbany intercepted a pass on the final play of the game to hold off William & Mary, 39-31. On Sept. 21, Villanova outlasted Towson, 52-45 in overtime, and New Hampshire got past Rhode Island, 27-24, on a field goal as time expired. Delaware pulled out a 36-33 triple OT win at Rhode Island on Sept. 7. 

Road teams have had success thus far in CAA play with a 6-3 record.

Strong Performance In Non-Conference Play

CAA Football teams are 22-5 (.815) against non-conference FCS foes this season, which is the best of any conference. The league compiled a 22-9 (.710) record against non-conference FCS competition last year and went 26-6 (.813) in non-conference games against FCS opponents in 2017.

Taking It To The House

CAA Football teams have combined to return eight kickoffs for touchdowns in the first five weeks of the season. W&M freshman Bronson Yoder, who leads FCS in kick return average (36.8 ypr), and Maine senior Earnest Edwards, who ranks 3rd in FCS (34.9 ypg), share the national lead with two KOR’s for touchdowns. Also returning kickoffs for TD’s have been URI’s Ahmere Dorsey, UAlbany’s Donovan McDonald, Elon’s Shamari Wingard and JMU’s Devin Ravenel. Seven of the eight returns have been longer than 90 yards.

Six CAA Teams Ranked Nationally (Again) This Week

For the third week in a row, six CAA Football teams are ranked in the STATS and AFCA Coaches Top 25 Polls. In the STATS poll, JMU is ranked No. 2, followed by No. 5 Villanova, No. 9 Towson, No. 19 Delaware, No. 20 Maine and No. 24 Stony Brook. The AFCA poll includes No. 2 JMU, No. 8 Villanova, No. 10 Towson, No. 18 Delaware, No. 22 Maine and No. 24 Stony Brook. The six ranked teams are the most of any FCS conference. Elon received votes in both polls.

W&M's Atkins Named Campbell Award Semifinalist

William & Mary senior linebacker Nate Atkins has been chosen as a semifinalist for the Campbell Award, which recognizes the best football scholar-athlete in the nation. A four-year starter for the Tribe, Atkins is a two-time team captain and four-time Commissioner’s Academic Award recipient.

UAlbany

•  Scored 24 unanswered points in the second half and rallied past William & Mary, 39-31.

•  Jeff Undercuffler threw for 310 yards and 3 TD’s vs. W&M and has 11 TD passes in the last 3 games. He’s 4th in the CAA in passing (242.6 ypg) and 1st in TD passes (15).

•  Juwan Green made 6 catches for 29 yards and a TD vs. W&M. He ranks 2nd in the CAA in receptions (34) and 3rd in receiving yards (437). His 7 receiving TD’s top the CAA and are tied for the 2nd-most in FCS.

•  Karl Mofor ran for 115 yards and a TD on 24 carries vs. W&M and also caught 4 passes for 53 yards. He ranks second in the CAA in rushing (103.4 ypg).

•  UAlbany has scored 35+ points in the last four games and is averaging 468.5 yards of offense during that stretch.

•  Jerah Reeves made 10 catches for 111 yards and a TD vs. W&M.

•  Dylan Burns booted a program-record 4 FG’s vs. W&M, including a career-best 43 yarder.

Delaware

•  Dropped a narrow 17-14 decision at ACC foe Pitt. Let 14-10 early in the 4th quarter.

•  Nolan Henderson passed for 124 yards and 2 TD’s at Pitt. He’s completing 61.5% of his throws for the year and has 7 TD’s and 0 int.

•  Will Knight ran for 40 yards on 9 carries at Pitt. He tops UD with 276 rushing yards and is averaging 9.2 yards per carry.

•  Gene Coleman II made a career-high 5 catches for 61 yards and a TD at Pitt. He’s tied for the team lead with 3 TD receptions.

•  Kedrick Whithead made a team-high 13 tackles at Pitt, which was his 3rd straight game with double-digit stops. He leads the Blue Hens with 49 tackles for the season.

•  Drew Nickles had a career-best 12 tackes, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery at Pitt. He’s 2nd on the team with 30 stops.

•  Delaware has rallied from a deficit in all three of its victories this season, including two comebacks from 14 points down.

Elon

•  Suffered a 45-10 setback to #2 James Madison last week. It was Elon’s first-ever CAA Football loss in September (6-1).

•  Davis Cheek passed for 189 yards and a TD vs. JMU. He has thrown for 200+ yards three times this season. Cheek was intercepted for the first time in 240 attempts vs. JMU.

•  Avery Jones caught a career-long 66-yard TD pass on the 2nd play of the game vs. JMU. Jones set career-highs with 6 catches for 93 yards and he’s had a TD reception in three straight contests.

•  Fourteen of Elon’s 16 scoring drives in 2019 have been at least 69 yards and all but one have resulted in touchdowns.

•  DB Tre’Von Jones tallied a career-best 16 tackles vs. JMU. It was the most stops by an Elon player in a game since 2017.

•  Cole Coleman matched his career-high with 12 tackles vs. JMU.

•  The crowd of 11,926 was the 3rd-largest in Rhodes Stadium history.

James Madison

•  Beat Elon, 45-10, in the CAA opener to extend their winning to four. Have outscored their past four opponents, 189-43.

•  Ben DiNucci was 13-of-21 passing for 185 yards at Elon. He ranks 3rd in FCS in completion percentage (71.8%) and 6th in passing efficiency.

•  JMU rushed for 336 yards at Elon and had four backs with at least 59 yards. The Dukes are 12th in FCS in rushing (256.0 ypg).

•  JMU topped the 500-yard mark (521) in total offense for the 4th straight game. The Dukes rank 11th in FCS in total offense.

•  JMU’s defense held Elon to 227 total yards and has limited all five opponents to 337 yards or less. The Dukes haven’t given up more than 84 yards on the ground in 2019.

•  The Dukes rank No. 2 in FCS in rushing defense, No. 5 in total defense and No. 4 in scoring defense.

•  Ethan Ratke, who is 9-of-12 on FG’s this season, broke JMU’s all-time record with his 40th career FG at Elon.

Maine

•  Fell 33-17 at #8 Villanova last week.

•  Chris Ferguson threw for 347 yards and a TD at VU. He ranks 6th in FCS in passing (324.4 ypg) and has passed for at least 285 yards in four of his five games this season.

•  Jaquan Blair made a career-high 12 receptions for 120 yards at VU. It was his 2nd 100-yard receiving effort this season and he’s one catch shy of 100 for his career.

•  Earnest Edwards made 4 catches for a season-high 140 yards and a TD at VU. He ranks 3rd in FCS with 24.9 yards per catch and has scored a TD in 11 of his last 12 games. He also threw his second TD pass of the year.

•  Edwards ranks 3rd in FCS in kick returns (34.9 avg) and 4th in all-purpose yards.

•  Maine ranks 6th in FCS in passing offense and has five receivers with 15+ catches.

•  Taji Lowe recorded a team-high 9 tackles at VU and has made 21 in the past two games.

•  Maine ranks 10th in FCS in passing defense (164.8 ypg).

New Hampshire

•  Topped Duquesne, 23-6, last week for their second straight victory.

•  Max Brosmer threw for 202 yards vs. DU, which was his 2nd 200+-yard outing. He’s the first true freshman to ever start at QB for UNH.

•  Evan Gray rushed for a team-high 99 yards and a TD on 10 carries vs. DU and has run for 293 yards on 22 attempts (13.3 ypc) over the past three weeks.

•  Jason Hughes kicked three FG’s vs. DU, including a career-best 45-yarder.

•  Malik Love had 4 receptions for 53 yards vs. DU. He’s made at least four catches in all 4 games and leads UNH with 18 receptions.

•  UNH’s defense held DU to 233 total yards, including just 50 on the ground. UNH has held its three FCS foes to 77.3 ypg on the ground.

•  Brian Carter tallied six tackles and his first two sacks of the season vs. DU.

•  UNH ranks No. 15 in FCS in scoring defense.

Rhode Island

•  Suffered their third last-second loss in CAA play, falling 31-27 to Stony Brook.

•  Vito Priore was 26-of-39 passing for 295 yards and 3 TD’s vs. SBU. He’s thrown for over 290 yards in all four games this season and ranks 5th in FCS with 332.0 passing ypg.

•  Aaron Parker made 5 catches for 80 yards and 2 TD’s vs. SBU. He’s 2nd in FCS in receiving yards per game (148.8) and 6th in receptions per game (8.8). Parker is 2nd in career receiving yards (2,831), 4th in receptions (170) and 4th in TD catches (25) at URI.

•  Ahmere Dorsey returned a kickoff 99 yards for a TD vs. SBU. It was the third KOR for a TD in his career and all have been at least 95 yards. Dorsey also has 14 catches for 203 yards and a TD this season.

•  Momodou Mbye has intercepted a pass in all four games this season and is tied for the FCS lead with 1.0 per game.

•  Branyan Javier-Castillo made 11 tackles vs. SBU and leads the CAA with 10.2 tackles per game (41 total). He also has 4.0 TFL.

Richmond

•  Dropped a 23-16 decision at Fordham last week. Led 10-0 in the second quarter.

•  Beau English threw for a career-high 298 yards and a TD at Fordham in his second career start. He’s completing 75% of his passes for the season.

•  Charlie Fessler set season-highs with 8 catches for 150 yards and a TD at Fordham. He leads UR with 23 receptions.

•  Keyston Fuller has made 18 receptions for 333 yards over the past three games.

•  Freshman Jake Larson kicked 3 field goals at Fordham and is 6-for-6 on FG’s and 9-for-9 on XP’s for the season. He’s also averaging 43.4 yards on 10 punts.

•  LB Tristan Wheeler made a career-high 13 tackles and one TFL in his first collegiate start at Fordham.

•  DL Maurice Jackson recorded a sack and forced a fumble at Fordham. Jackson tops UR with 5.0 TFL and 3 QB hurries.

Stony Brook

•  Pulled out a 31-27 last-second victory at Rhode Island last week.

•  Tyquell Fields threw for 199 yards and a TD and rushed for 85 yards on 10 carries at URI, including a game-winning 50-yard TD run with 11 seconds to play.

•  Isaiah White rushed for 109 yards and a TD on 20 carries at URI, which was his 3rd straight 100-yard effort. He ranks 3rd in the CAA in rushing (92.0 ypg).

•  Ty Son Lawton ran for a career-high 88 yards and a TD on 15 carries at URI.

•  Jean Constant, who tops the CAA and is 11th in FCS in punt returns (14.0 avg), had 5 catches for 54 yards and a TD at URI.

•  SBU had 535 yards of total offense at URI. SBU is 7th in FCS in total offense and is averaging 562.3 ypg over the past 3 contests.

•  SBU’s defense has held all four FCS opponents to 38 yards or less on the ground. They rank 13th in FCS in rushing defense (88.8 ypg) for the season.

Towson

•  Lost 38-0 at SEC power Florida last week.

•  Tom Flacco completed 16-of-27 passes for 157 yards at Florida. He’s passed for 200+ yards in 14 of his 17 career games and is 8th in career TD passes (34) at TU.

•  Yeedee Thaenrat has scored 7 rushing TD’s in the past three games. He leads the CAA in scoring with 48 points (9.6 ppg).

•  Aidan O’Neill has 57 career FG’s, which is two shy of the CAA all-time record.

•  Shane Leatherbury made 4 catches for a team-high 65 yards at Florida and surpassed 1,500 receiving yards for his career. He leads TU with 23 receptions for 364 yards in 2019.

•  Christian Dixon contributed nine tackles, 2.0 TFL, a sack and a forced fumble at Florida.

•  Towson is tied for the CAA lead in turnover margin (+6). The Tigers have returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

•  The Tigers have forced 12 turnovers, which is the 2nd most in the CAA.

Villanova

•  Off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 2009 after a 33-17 victory over Maine. It was VU’s third win over a ranked foe.

•  Daniel Smith threw for 213 yards and a TD and ran for 34 yards and 2 TD’s vs UM. He’s accounted for at least 3 TD’s in all 5 games and has 20 (14 pass/6 rush) for the season.

•  Justin Covington ran for 118 yards vs. UM. He’s posted five straight 100-yard games and leads FCS with 674 yards. Covington is averaging 8.4 yards per carry.

•  Freshman Jaaron Hayek has caught 12 passes for 178 yards over the past 2 games.

•  Villanova ranks 8th in FCS in scoring offense (40.4 ppg) and has scored at least 33 points in all five games this season.

•  Villanova ranks 14th in FCS in rush defense (89.2 ypg) and has held four of its five opponents to less than 90 yards on the ground.

•  Nowoola Awopetu recorded a career-high 10 tackles against Maine and has 24 stops for the season.

William & Mary

•  Fell 39-31 at UAlbany last week in their conference opener.

•  Bronson Yoder broke loose for a 98-yard kick return for a TD at UAlbany, which was his 2nd of the season. He leads FCS in kickoff return average (36.8 avg.).

•  Hollis Mathis was 8-of-10 passing for 68 yards and added a 56-yard TD run at UA.

•  Kane Everson made a career-high 7 catches for 121 yards at UA, highlighted by an 83-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter.

•  Owen Wright has rushed for a team-high 284 yards and 3 TD’s this season.

•  W&M ranks 2nd in the CAA with 12 sacks for the season.

•  W&M has forced 10 turnovers and is +2 in turnover margin for the year. 

•  Kris Hooper booted a school-record 54-yard field goal at UAlbany.

•  Corey Parker had 7 tackles, a TFL and 3 pass breakups at UAlbany.

Dominant JMU Pitches First Playoff Shutout, Rolls Past Northern Iowa

Inside The Rise Of Curt Cignetti

James Madison is one win away from punching its ticket to Frisco, Texas, thanks to an absolutely dominant defensive effort that led to a 17-0 victory over sixth-ranked Northern Iowa in the FCS quarterfinal round on Friday night.

Familiar Foes: CAA, MVFC Meet For 22nd Time When JMU Hosts UNI

Friday night's national quarterfinal showdown between James Madison and Northern Iowa marks the 22nd all-time meeting of Colonial Athletic Association and Missouri Valley Football Conference programs in the FCS Playoffs. 

Dominant Defenses Collide At Bridgeforth When JMU Hosts UNI

James Madison and Northern Iowa meet in Friday’s national quarterfinals with a similar look – and we’re not just referring to purple-gold-and-white uniforms. 

JMU's Ron'Dell Carter Named Finalist For Buck Buchanan Award

Ron'Dell Carter Has Arrived

James Madison senior defensive end Ron’Dell Carter has been voted one of three finalists for the 2019 STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award, which is presented annually to the most outstanding defensive player at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level.

JMU Is Hitting On All Cylinders Heading Into Quarterfinal Round

Rashad Robinson's Ready For His Close-Up

No. 2 overall seed James Madison kicked off its 2019 FCS Playoffs in a fashion indicative of how the Dukes have played all season. 

JMU Crushes Monmouth As Myriad Program Records Fall

CAA champion James Madison piled up a program playoff record 623 yards of total offense and hammered 14th-ranked Monmouth 66-21 in the second round of the FCS Playoffs.

Dukes By The Numbers: JMU Has Been Even More Dominant Than You Realize

HIGHLIGHTS: JMU vs William & Mary

Statistically speaking, James Madison has been one of the best teams in college football throughout the 2019 season. 

JMU's Offensive Line Is Paving The Way For A Title Run

Sessions playing Call of Duty can get pretty heated among the James Madison offensive line. 

UAlbany's Defense Is Flexing Its Muscle At The Perfect Time

In a season with running back Karl Mofor leading the Colonial Athletic Association in rushing, quarterback Jeff Undercuffler leading the nation in passing touchdowns, and wide receivers Juwan Green and Jerah Reeves making one spectacular grab after another, the UAlbany offense garnering attention stands to reason. 

The Future Of UAlbany Football Is Being Constructed As We Speak

Although only 180 miles separate their campuses, it took more than a century for the game born at Rutgers University in 1869 to make its way to UAlbany.