James Madison, this week’s opponent, has few weaknesses.
Although the University of New Hampshire football team has faced some tough FCS opponents this season, the Wildcats haven’t seen anything like they will Saturday in Harrisonburg, Va.
James Madison (8-1, 5-0 Colonial Athletic Association) is the No. 2 team in both major FCS national polls, and enters Saturday’s matchup with UNH ranked first among CAA teams in several categories, including scoring offense (38.9 ppg), rushing offense (238.0 ypg), scoring defense (16.1), rushing defense (67.3), total offense (463.1) and total defense (289.9).
“They don’t really have a weakness,” UNH interim head coach Ricky Santos said. “Both sides of the line are really good for them. They’re a big, physical, imposing offensive line. They run the ball well. Their game plan is going to be to control the clock. And then their defensive line is very dynamic. They’re two defensive ends are one-two in the conference in tackles for loss. We definitely have a big challenge ahead of us.”
Senior defensive end Ron’Dell Carter leads JMU with 17.5 tackles for loss, including six sacks. On the other end of the line senior John Daka has recorded a team-high nine sacks and has 16 tackles for loss.
James Madison’s lone defeat came in its opener against West Virginia (20-13). The Dukes, who had a bye last weekend, are 8-0 against FCS opponents and only one of those eight games was decided by fewer than 14 points. They’re 4-0 against teams ranked in the Top 25.
The good news from a UNH standpoint is this: James Madison had a similar team last season and the Wildcats (5-3, 4-1) came away with a 35-24 upset victory in Durham.
“The game wasn’t even that close to be honest with you,” said James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti, who was Elon’s head coach last season. “New Hampshire dominated pretty much throughout the whole game. I’m sure our guys will remember that. You’re always looking for extra motivation.
“They’re gonna come down here with a lot of confidence so we’re gonna have to play really, really well.”
The Wildcats are No. 2 among CAA teams in scoring defense (16.1), but are last in the conference in scoring offense (20.1). UNH is ranked No. 23 in the STATS Top 25 Poll and No. 25 in the FCS Coaches’ Poll.
“They’re a really good football team,” Cignetti said. “The defense, the offense and special teams all complement each other. They have a lot of grit. They play hard, and thus they are where they are right now. The biggest challenge coming out of the bye week will be to start fast on Saturday.”
UNH will likely need to win at least two of its three remaining games to qualify for the 24-team FCS playoffs.
After Saturday’s game, UNH will play at Albany (5-4, 4-1) before capping the regular season with a home game against Maine (4-5, 2-2).
The top eight seeded-teams earn a first-round bye for the FCS playoffs. James Madison is in position to be one of those teams.
A UNH victory Saturday would give the Wildcats at least a share of first place in the CAA standings.
“Everyone knows what’s on the line in this game, so you don’t have to harp on it too much,” UNH cornerback Isiah Perkins said. “For them obviously they have eight wins so they’re looking at it like maybe we can secure our seed for sure. Us, we’re trying to get into the playoffs with three games left.”
Wildcats to visit Syracuse in 2026
UNH has signed a deal to play at Syracuse of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Wildcats will take on the Orange in the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2026.
It will be the first time UNH plays Syracuse in football.
The Wildcats face Kansas of the Big 12 on Sept. 5, 2020 and at Pittsburgh on Sept. 25, 2021.
The Wildcats have never played Kansas. They played at Pittsburgh and lost, 38-16, on Sept. 11, 2010 in front of 50,120 at Heinz Field, the largest crowd to attend a game in the program’s history.