VILLANOVA, PA. 11/12/2016 – The #9 Villanova Wildcats were playing for a chance to earn a share of first place in the CAA against the current leader the #6 James Madison Dukes. A classic confrontation of the top -ranked offense in the league, JMU, and the number one defense in Villanova. However, it was the defense of the Dukes unexpectedly throttling the Wildcats offense that proved to be the difference. James Madison clinches The Colonial Athletic Association 2016 Championship with a 20 – 7 win at Villanova Stadium.
“We had the defensive effort we needed to win this game,” said Villanova Coach Andy Talley. “We did not play well on the offensive side of the ball and blew a tremendous defensive effort. We had the defense, but did not have the offense.”
The Dukes took final control of the game on an interception by defensive lineman Martez Stone in this war of attrition that gave his team the ball inside the 10 yard line of the Wildcats with just under four minutes to play.
“To make a play like that was one I’ll never forget,” said Stone.
“Cornell Urquhart tipped the ball and the way he tipped it, the sun was on it. I ran up and grabbed it and tried to spin out and score.”
Khalid Abdullah ended the suspense with a 2-yard touchdown run for the decisive score.
The potent Villanova offense could not get untracked. The Wildcats were held to 239 yards of total offense, 71 yards passing. Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk completed 12 of 30 passing attempts and was intercepted 4 times. The Cats converted only 4 of 15 third down conversions, and turned the ball over on downs 3 times.
“They played better than I’ve seen them,” Talley said. “We struggled with their defensive line. Those guys came up with a game, and we didn’t.”
VU defense was holding up limiting the Dukes to 277 yards of offense, 151 in the air. Twenty points was thier lowest output of the year. JMU converted 4 of 14 third down tries, and went 1 of 2 on fourth down. Linebacker Austin Calitro made a game-high 11 tackles and Jeff Steeb contributed 10.
JMU was rolling on offense early scoring on the first possession of the game. It was a 13 play, 86-yard drive that took 6:40. Abdullah finished it with a 5-yard touchdown run with 8:20 to play. The Dukes were driving again getting deep into Wildcats territory, but James Madison lost quarterback Bryan Schor due to an injury. Schor was 10 of 11 for 108 yards through the air and ran for 20 yards in his limited appearance. Johnson was 5 of 12 for 43 yards and was intercepted by defensive backs Malik Reeves and Rob Rolle, his 6th of the season.
Villanova answered when Bednarczyk broke loose for a 56-yard scoring run to tie the game at 7 with 13:33 until halftime. The Cats had a chance to take the lead in the beginning of the third quarter by a 29-yard field goal attempt by Gerard Smith was blocked by Gage Steele of the Dukes.
Gray made 2 field goals in the third quarter to give the Dukes a 13 – 7 advantage, a lead they held then cemented with the late touchdown by Abdullah who ran for a game-high 101 yards.
Villanova (7 – 3, 5 – 2) goes to Delaware next week. It will be the last regular season game for Talley. The result will go a long way in determining the post-season fate for the Wildcats. But the focus will be on shaking off this loss and preparing for the Battle of the Blue.
“It’s not easy, but we have to do it,” said Calitro. “Our goal was to win the title and make the playoffs. We didn’t get the first one, but the second one is very attainable.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian