It may only be the beginning of November, but for the University of Richmond, the remaining three football games all have a December feel to them.
With its record at 4-4, the Spiders are one loss away from most likely missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Although the playoffs have expanded by four teams this year to give 20 teams a shot at winning the national championship, it will be nearly impossible for a 6-5 team to make it to the playoffs.
Despite these increased stakes, don't expect Richmond coach Latrell Scott to address it to his players. All season, he has been preaching a "one game at a time" motto and that has continued this week.
"We don't talk about wins and losses," Scott said, "we talk about things one game at a time. We never go into a game expecting to lose, so I'd never tell these guys 'You lose and you're done.'
"It's a thing [the playoff scenario] I think all the guys know. They read, they listen and they know the playoff system because they've been to the playoffs for a long time here. We know what we have at stake and look forward to playing on Saturday."
Under normal circumstances, when Richmond and James Madison play each other, it's a big event. But add in the fact that James Madison (4-4) is in the same position as Richmond and Saturday's game will have a playoff feel to it.
"Between us and James Madison, the rivalry seems to have increased over the past few years because it's always a close game, always comes down to the wire," senior Eric McBride said. "You can feel it in the air, feel it in the environment, there's something different about playing these guys every year because you know both teams are going to bring it and both teams want to win."
If Richmond is able to break the six-year trend of the road team winning in this matchup, it will be in a good position to make the playoffs headed into its season finale against William & Mary, another Richmond rival. Between the two games, Rhode Island — currently 3-5 — will travel to Richmond on Nov. 13.
The seniors on this team have not missed the playoffs in the time that they have played for the Spiders. The fifth-year seniors, like McBride, redshirted in 2006.
With all the winning that the seniors have done in their career, they are not ready to graduate without one more trip to the playoffs.
"[Tuesday], we were doing kickoff [practice] and [senior] Max Prokell came up to me and was like, 'Man, we got about nine practices left together'," McBride said. "And I think that's when [the threat of missing the playoffs] really hit me. And I just told him, 'Let's make it 12. Let's win out.'"
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• Senior Justin Rogers will set the Colonial Athletic Association record for kick return yards the next time he gets the chance at a return. He is currently four yards shy of Brian Westbrook's (Villanova University, 1997-2001) record of 2,433 yards.
• McBride will make his 52nd consecutive start on Saturday, the longest active streak in the CAA.
• After making national headlines with an upset win over the No. 13 Virginia Tech on Sept. 11, a playoff spot seemed assured for JMU. But the Dukes have lost four of their last five games with the only win coming at Towson, 17-13.
• Since 2004, every meeting between UR and JMU has been decided by one score with the exception of a 27-10 win by JMU in 2006. The past three years, the game has been decided in the final minutes with the Spiders defense forcing critical turnovers in their two wins.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at firstname.lastname@example.org
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