FACTS & STATS: Site: Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field (24,877) –
Harrisonburg, Virginia. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers:
Dave Weekley, John Gregory. Home Record: Liberty 4-2; James Madison 4-1. Away
Record: Liberty 4-2; James Madison 5-2. Conference: Liberty – Big South; James
Madison – Colonial Athletic Association. Nicknames: Liberty Flames; James
Madison Dukes. Series Record: James Madison 12-5. Last Meeting: Sept. 17, 2011
(James Madison, 27-24 at Liberty). Series Streak: James Madison has won the
last six meetings. Head Coaches: Liberty – Turner Gill (3rd season, 22-13 at
Liberty; 9th season, 47-62 overall); James Madison – Everett Withers (1st
season, 9-3 at James Madison; 2nd season, 16-9 overall). FCS Playoff Records:
Liberty 0-0; James Madison 9-9. Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Liberty 0
(None); James Madison 10 (1987, 1991, 1994-95, 1999, 2004, 2006-08, 2011,
National Champion in 2004). Current Playoff Streak: Liberty making its first
FCS playoff appearance; James Madison has won three of its last five FCS
GAME NOTES: The Interstate 81 Showdown is much anticipated in Virginia. JMU
is one of the CAA schools with a national title (2004), while Big South co-
champion Liberty is appearing in the playoffs for the first time, powering into
the postseason by handing previously unbeaten Coastal Carolina its first loss
JMU holds a 12-5 series lead, including a 27-24 win in their most recent
meeting in 2011.
Liberty must slow down JMU dual-threat quarterback Vad Lee, which is easier
said than done. Defensive tackle Chima Uzowihe was the one who blocked a game-
ending field goal attempt to lift the Flames over Coastal Carolina, and he’s
been getting it done up front all season, giving safety Jacob Hagen (a
national-high eight interceptions) the ability to dominate on the back end.
Freshman quarterback Stephon Masha has stepped in for star quarterback Josh
Woodrum (leg infection) the last two games and is coming off a strong outing
against Coastal. Still, the Flames will want running back D.J. Abnar and wide
receiver Darrin Peterson to do the heavy lifting. They have combined on 25
Lee has been this year’s most-accomplished FBS transfer in the FCS. The former
two-year starter at Georgia Tech ranks fifth in the FCS in passing yards
(3,323) and fourth in total offense (341 ypg). He’s guided rookie coach Everett
Withers’ squad to a seven-game winning streak heading into the playoffs.
The Dukes’ defense isn’t as strong as past seasons, but there are terrific
individual pieces led by safety Dean Marlowe and defensive end/linebacker Sage
Harold. The Dukes give up points – 29.3 per game – so they rely on their
ability to score in bunches.
The winner is off to a second-round matchup at No. 6 seed Villanova on Dec. 6.
PREDICTION: Liberty needs Woodrum back in the saddle or the quarterback matchup
is decisive. James Madison, 28-21.