The 2016 CAA season officially kicked off with an impressive slate of non-conference games Thursday night.
First year head coach Joe Harasymiak, and his Maine Black Bears squad, gave their old Yankee conference rivals, the Huskies of UConn, quite a scare. Quarterback Dan Collins led the team in yards with a 19/33 passing effort that netted the team 269 yards through the air. Freshman running back Josh Mack led the effort on the ground as the top rusher for the night, netting the Black Bears 27 yards on 9 carries. Maine would end up losing off of a Connecticut field goal late in the fourth quarter with a final score of Maine 21, UConn 24.
Also that night, the Seawolves of Stony Brook showed North Dakota of the Big Sky conference a CAA welcome. The Sea Wolves and Fighting Hawks were equally matched on offense, so the special teams and the defense for Stony Brook became the game changer. Defensive back Jaheem Woods led the Seawolves on defense with 5 tackles for loss, and an impressive 3 sacks for a total of -22 yards. The play of the game would go to Kye Morgan defensive back for Stony Brook who would block a North Dakota punt late in the fourth quarter to seal the win at Stony Brook 13, North Dakota 9.
The Delaware Blue Hens easily dismantled their in state Rival Delaware State by a score of 56 to 14. Delaware posted an impress 395 yards rushing which was led by Running back Wes Hills who had 212 of those yards. Quarterback Joe walker went 6/9 on passing for a total of 55 yards. On defense the Blue Hens came away with 4 interceptions, which came up big for their win.
Farther south, the William and Mary Tribe came up short against a tough North Carolina State FBS Squad. Quarterback Steve Cluley led the team in yards with a passing attempt of 9/18, and 99 yards through the air. On the ground running back Albert Funderburke led the team with 9 carries for 31 yards. In the end, their FBS opponent proved to be too much to handle, and lost by a final score of W&M 14, N.C Sate 48.
Arguably one of the most impressive wins for the CAA came Friday night, when the Albany Great Danes notched the first FBS win ever when they defeated the Bulls of Buffalo. Quarterback Neven Sussman looked impressive as he went 14/21 netting a total of 113 yards. On the ground it was running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks who would go on to lead the Danes to 104 yards on his 23 carries. On defense, three interceptions would prove crucial in gaining the upper hand on the Bulls, and in the end, the Danes would go on to beat their opponent by a score of Albany 22, Buffalo 16.
The star of the show Saturday would come from an impressive win by the #1 ranked CAA team the Richmond Spiders of their in state opponent the Virginia Cavaliers. Richmond got things going early in the first with their special teams off of a 28 yard, and a 35 yard field goal by kicker Griffin Trau. Quarterback Kyle Lauletta looked impressive as he would open up the field with his 337 yards through the air. Richmond seemed in command throughout the game, and would go on to post a total of 524 yards on offense to Virginias 302 total yards. Virginia would go on to cough up the ball to Richmond, and would be unable to recover, eventually losing the game by a score of Richmond 37, Virginia 20.
The Villanova Wildcats wouldn’t have as much luck as the Spiders when they took on their in state F.B.S team the Pitt Panthers. Zach Bednarcyzk would lead the team in offensive yards off of his 16/31 passing attempts netting 119 yards through the air. Receiver Ryan Bell would pull in six of those passes for a total of 52 yards. In the end, the Panthers proved too much for the Wildcats, and Villanova lost by a score of Villanova 7, and Pitt 28.
Moving south, the Towson Tigers fought hard against the Bulls of Southern Florida, but couldn’t hang on to secure a win. Towson would win the time of possession battle at 37:40, to 22.20; but 4 turnovers by Towson would prove costly. Quarterback Morgan Mahalak led the team in total yards going 16/36 and netting 165 yards through the air, but the depth of FBS Southern Florida would eventually become too much to handle for Towson. Towson 20, USF 56.
Two CAA games would be played farther west with the first one taking place between the Rams of Rhode Island, and the Jayhawks of Kansas. URI would go on to put up 219 total yards of offense, with most of these yards coming on the ground. Sean Andersen, Wesley McKoy, Markey Clarke, and Khayri Denny combined for 170 yards on 40 carries. The win by Kansas was their first win since November 18th, 2014. The final score was URI 6, Kansas 55.
Out on west coast, the UNH Wildcats would have their hands full against the Aztecs of San Diego State. Quarterback Trevor Knight would receive the first start of his collegiate career, but would stall out against the high powered SDSU Defense. Going only 4/16 for 37 yards, Trevor would be unable to find the end zone in the eventual shutout. SDSU would go on to win this 31 to 0.
Getting back to the FCS action, the Bulldogs of Gardner Web would prove too much for the Phoenix of Elon to handle. Elon would keep it close during the first half, and would even enter the locker room tied at 3. But the rushing attack from GWU would go on to overpower the defensive front of Elon. Phoenix Quarterbacks Connor Christiansen and Daniel Thompson would throw for a combined 25/40 and a total of 212 yards. In the end though, it wasn’t enough to make up the deficit. GWU 31, Elon 6.
Our final game of the day comes with a statement. The Dukes of James Madison didn’t even give Morehead state a moment to breathe in their 80-7 rout. Putting up 607 total yards of offense, and creating 5 turnovers, the Dukes made an impressive statement in their opening game. JMU would rush for a combined 498 yards, and would completely shut down Morehead state on defense for almost the entirety of the game.