JMU football head coach Curt Cignetti observes the Dukes against Villanova on Oct. 9.

The FCS had itself a weekend during Week 6, with JMU falling to No. 6 Villanova 28-27. Following the game, JMU head coach Curt Cignetti and the CAA coaches joined the weekly CAA coaches' call to discuss Saturday’s games and what to expect in Week 7. Here’s some of the biggest keys for Cignetti.

Key one: Eyes on the Spiders

Although fans didn’t expect the loss to Villanova, Cignetti said the biggest difference maker is how the Dukes bounce back this week. Regarding the loss, he said postgame, “Nobody died today,” and that he expects JMU to take that advice and bounce back. 

Cignetti stated the team’s personal importance of travelling to Richmond. Several Dukes, including redshirt freshman wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. and redshirt senior defensive lineman Mike Green, are from Richmond. Cignetti said he’s interested to see how the team focuses in practice this week and if the motivation of the rivalry will affect the Dukes’ performance.

Key two: Offensive line is still developing

Redshirt senior quarterback Cole Johnson was forced out of the pocket more than usual against the Wildcats, and despite taking some “hard hits,” Cignetti said Johnson wasn’t “thrown around too much.” However, the head coach still emphasized that the offensive line needs to protect Johnson more during games and that the quarterback was blindsided too many times. The offensive line is still young — composed of mostly freshmen — with the oldest player being redshirt senior center J.T. Timming.

Despite the line’s youth, Cignetti said redshirt senior All-American offensive lineman Liam Fornadel is expected to return to the lineup near the end of the regular season. Fornadel was injured in a “freak accident”  — as Cignetti described — during JMU’s first game against Morehead State, and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tyler Stephens has played in Fornadel’s position since. 

Key three: Richmond defense is ‘rich’

Cignetti said the offensive line will be challenged this week, calling Richmond’s defense “rich.” He said he wants to see JMU have a more balanced offensive attack against the Spiders as a way to combat their richness. Richmond has an older defensive lineup, with only two starters being underclassmen.

To balance out JMU’s offense, Cignetti said the Dukes need to put a heavier emphasis on running back depth and getting one-on-one opportunities on long passes. JMU had 130 rushing yards compared to 258 passing yards against Villanova, and Cignetti said by using depth and long passes, it should force Richmond’s defense to spread out. 

Other news in the CAA

Albany redshirt sophomore quarterback Jeff Undercuffler is the projected starting quarterback, per head coach Greg Guttaso. Undercuffler didn’t play against William & Mary.

Delaware redshirt senior quarterback Nolan Henderson is out with an injury, confirmed by head coach Danny Rocco. Rocco said that although Henderson won’t play, the team’s still optimistic on his prognosis.

Richmond offensive coordinator Jeff Durden said the Spiders anticipate playing graduate quarterback Beau English against JMU this weekend, as graduate quarterback Joe Mancuso is still recovering from an injured hand sustained against Virginia Tech on Sept. 25.

The CAA has 11 games this week, five of which are conference play. Some key matchups to note include Rhode Island traveling to Towson and New Hampshire hosting Dartmouth.  

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