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Villanova at James Madison at a glance

Saturday's Colonial game feature the conference's best running attacks against the best rush defenses.

Quarterback Daniel Smith will likely play a key role against James Madison.
Quarterback Daniel Smith will likely play a key role against James Madison.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, Va.

TV/radio: FloFootball; ESPN-AM (610)

Records: Villanova, 6-0 overall, 3-0 Colonial Athletic Association; James Madison, 5-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association

Coaches: Villanova, Mark Ferrante (16-12, 3rd season); James Madison, Curt Cignetti (career 72-27, James Madison 5-1, 1st season)

Last meeting: Oct. 13, 2018, James Madison, 37-0

Series: James Madison leads, 16-11

Things to watch

Villanova’s rushing attack, one that averages 235.7 yards per game, took a hit last week when junior Justin Covington, the FCS’ second-leading runner, left the game early with an ankle injury. With head coach Mark Ferrante being “not overly optimistic” that Covington will play against James Madison, it will likely be up to freshmen DeWill Barlee and T.D. Ayo-Durojaiye to face the Colonial’s top-ranked run defense. The first-year tandem is capable, so don’t expect the Wildcats to abandon the run. But it will likely be up to sure-handed quarterback Daniel Smith, who has thrown for 1,023 yards and 14 touchdowns with three interceptions, to keep the offense moving.

Dual-threat quarterback Ben DiNucci is a major reason why James Madison leads the Colonial in rushing with an average of 268.2 yards per game. In 49 attempts, DiNucci has gained for 348 yards, the second-most on the team, and has two touchdowns. But like the Villanova offense, James Madison’s offense will also be tested against a defense that limits opponents to an average of 89.7 yards on the ground, good for second in the Colonial. Expect DiNucci, who has completed 72.4 percent of his passes but has never thrown more than 25 times, to have to use his arm more than usual in order to pull out the win.