VILLANOVA, PA. 10/13/2018 – The Villanova Wildcats faced a challenge in the form of the 6th ranked Dukes of James Madison, the defending national champions. JMU is also the top-ranked team in the CAA in punt return average. In scoring offense and defense, second in each category. The task got more daunting as the Wildcats were without seven key players including quarterback Zach Bednarczyk and linebacker Jeff Steeb.
But it was the punt return team that told the story in the 37 – 0 win by the Dukes.
The game broke open on special teams big plays. D’Angelo Amos returned a punt 89-yards for a score early in the third quarter. It tied the school record for the longest punt return. Amos followed up with an 81-yard scoring punt return, and became the second player in school history to return two punts for a score in the same game, and tied a conference record. More importantly a 16 – 0 lead became a 30 – 0 lead for JMU.
“They did phenomenal,” Amos said about the return team. “I didn’t get touched. Once I got past that first group of guys, I could see a lot of field.”
Amos had 183 all-purpose yards. Villanova had not given up a punt return touchdown since 2006 when Penn took one to the house.
Still, the Wildcats remained determined especially on the defensive side of the ball. Corner back Jaquan Amos picked off a pass, and lead the Cats in tackles with nine total. The Dukes offense put 14 points on the board.
Defensive wins 1st half consisted of giving up three short field goals instead of seven-pointers. The only offensive touchdown in the first half was on a 2-yard run by Marcus Marshall. JMU held a 16 – 0 advantage at intermission. The Dukes ended the scoring with a 1-yard run by quarterback Ben DiNucci with 35 ticks on the clock.
“We knew we had to toughen up and stop them,” said linebacker Amin Black. “We stopped them in the red zone and that helped us a lot.”
Villanova struggled on the offensive side of the ball as James Madison registered their second clean slate of the season.
In the first half the team had 7 possessions. Nova went three-and-out three times and turned the ball over twice, on downs and a on a fumble. Villanova started Jack Schetelich at quarterback, but turned to Adeyemi DaSilva in the second quarter.
“We weren’t very efficient on offense at all throughout the whole game,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante.
The Cats were held to 157 yards of total offense, 63 on the ground and 94 through the air. The offense were able to convert only 6 of 16 third downs. Losing Bednarczyk and tight end Ryan Bell limited their effectiveness with the ball.
“That’s a lot of production off the field,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante. “The starters we had out on offense and on defense did not help us.”
The Wildcats (3 – 4, 0 – 4) have next week off. They will return to action on October 27 when they host New Hampshire. It will be a perfect time to have the bye week for the Cats. Injuries have plagued the team for the past two seasons. Time to heal up.
“I told the guys to heal up physically as well as mentally,” Ferante said. “When we come back on Wednesday we’ll be ready to go and put in the hard work. We have four games to go. The most important one is the first one against New Hampshire. We can still have some of our goals achieved, a winning season first. We have to win that to get back to four and four.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian