FCS Playoff Semifinal
The Matchup – No. 3 seed Weber State (11-3, 7-1 Big Sky) at No. 2 seed James Madison (13-1, 8-0 CAA)
Kickoff – 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Bridgeforth Stadium (24,877) in Harrisonburg, Virginia
Coverage – ESPNU
Series – James Madison leads 1-0 (last meeting: James Madison won 31-28 on Dec. 8, 2017 in an FCS playoff quarterfinal)
Coaches – Weber State: Jay Hill (47-29, six seasons); James Madison: Curt Cignetti (13-1, first season; 80-27 overall)
Players to Watch – Weber State: QB Jake Constantine (194 of 313, 2,037 yards, 13 TDs, 10 INTs), RB Josh Davis (170 carries, 1,075 yards, 11 TDs; 29 receptions), WR Devon Cooley (56 receptions, 691 yards, 5 TDs), DE Jonah Williams (57 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 7½ sacks), DE Adam Rodriguez (53 tackles, 10½ sacks, 4 pass breakups); James Madison: QB Ben DiNucci (227 of 319, 2,982 yards, 25 TDs, 5 INTs; 101 carries, 498 yards, 5 TDs), RB Percy Agyei-Obese (228 carries, 1,098 yards, 19 TDs), DE John Daka (58 tackles, 26½ tackles for loss, 16½ sacks), DE Ron’Dell Carter (57 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 11½ sacks, 13 QB hurries), MLB Dimitri Holloway (111 tackles, 10½ tackles for loss, 3 fumble recoveries)
The Skinny – Weber State has reached the FCS semifinals for the first time, while James Madison is making its fifth appearance, most recently in 2017 after it beat the Wildcats on Ethan Ratke’s game-ending field goal in the quarters. Weber’s only FCS loss was to Montana and the Wildcats avenged it with a 17-10 victory last Friday night. Defense fueled the win with Rodriguez collecting four of the Wildcats’ six sacks and LB George Tarlas two of their five interceptions. Despite all the success, the Wildcats have been inconsistent offensively. They’ve been held below 70 rushing yards in three of their last four games, which is a problem considering JMU is allowing an FCS-low 60.4 rushing yards per game and ranks No. 1 in total defense (265.3 ypg) and No. 3 in scoring defense (14.9). Davis, who’s surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in each of his two seasons, was slowed by an ankle injury in the quarters, so Kevin Smith (663 yards, 2 TDs) got the bulk of the carries. In Constantine’s two seasons, Weber is 16-0 when his passer rating is 100 or better, but 3-4 when he’s below 100. Trey Tuttle has kicked an FCS-high 23 field goals this season and 61 in his career, although Ratke isn’t far behind with 22 this season and 53 in his career. After scoring its playoff high (66) against Monmouth in the second round, JMU posted its first postseason shutout in beating UNI 17-0 last Friday night. The Dukes’ defensive line, led by Carter and Daka, has been unstoppable, which only makes CB Rashad Robinson (13 career INTs) and S Adam Smith (nine career INTs) more dangerous. On offense, DiNucci is No. 1 in the FCS in completion percentage (71.2), working with the standout wide receiver duo of Brandon Polk (68 receptions, 1,121 yards, 11 TDs) and Riley Stapleton (46-526-6). Agyei-Obese and Jawon Hamilton (846 yards) also give the Dukes a standout pair of running backs. Weber State punter Doug Lloyd will want to kick away from D’Angelo Amos, who has returned five punts for touchdowns in his first three seasons.
Up Next – The winner will play either No. 1 seed North Dakota State or No. 5 seed Montana State in the FCS championship game Jan. 11 in Frisco, Texas.
Prediction – The Dukes can taste a third trip to Frisco in the last four seasons and have too much of an advantage on offense. James Madison 24-13.