This week's football rivalry between Richmond and James Madison was renewed early when Dukes fans dressed the E. Claiborne Robins statue in the Jepson Quad in a JMU jersey on Monday.
Richmond, fresh off of a bye, will host James Madison Saturday in a rematch of last year's “College Gameday” shootout, in which the Spiders earned a 59–49 victory in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
In the most recent FCS ranking released Monday, JMU ranked No. 5 and Richmond was at No. 6.
Richmond might benefit from the week off, which Richmond coach Danny Rocco said could not have come at a more opportune time as the demands of the season — and eight straight games — take a toll on players.
“I feel like we came back rested, and not just physically," Rocco said. "There is a real psychological grind to the season. We’ve had a lot of close, close games and a lot of fourth-quarter outcomes. I’ve sensed some rest re-energized my kids.”
Senior receiver Brian Brown said that the bye bolstered the team's confidence and he felt as if the schedule aligned perfectly for this rivalry rematch. “Seeing our schedule play out like this with the bye week and then a huge conference game with JMU, it’s definitely beneficial,” Brown said.
If Richmond has an advantage in recovery time, JMU has one in momentum. The Dukes are one week removed from an 84–7 trouncing of Rhode Island, their second 80-plus point game of the season.
The standout factor in JMU’s potent offense? Speed, according to Richmond's senior linebacker Selton Hodge. “They’re really fast and aggressive," he said. "I see that with their wide receivers and their running backs. I don’t think we’ve seen that (level of speed) this season yet.”
The game will also be a reunion of sorts as JMU’s defensive coordinator, Bob Trott, served the same role at Richmond from 2010–2016. He helped to recruit and develop many of the players on the Spiders' defense, including Hodge.
Despite the familiarity Trott has with the team, neither Brown nor Hodge said they were worried about any boost the Dukes may get from someone who knows the Richmond system. “We’ve all seen the looks he puts up against us and he knows what we like to do just like we know what he likes to do,” Brown said.
This game is likely to have implications on the CAA championship, as both teams currently sit in the top three of the conference standings. The Dukes are the only undefeated team in the CAA, while Richmond has one conference loss to Stony Brook.
Saturday's game also gives the Spiders an opportunity to build on their record-setting 11 straight home wins. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. in Robins Stadium.
Contact sports writer Mike Cronin at firstname.lastname@example.org