The Wildcats made it look easy in the first half and then held on in the second to take down the ninth-ranked James Madison Dukes for their seventh win of the season, 35-20.
The first half of the game as all Wildcats, as the ninth-ranked James Madison Dukes were held scoreless before intermission. With a 17-point lead at the intermission, the Wildcats were feeling confident as they came off of the field at the break. The Nova defense couldn't hold off the Virginians forever though, and the Dukes put 20 points on the board in the second half. The 'Cats were able to hold on in the second half to win 35-20 to move to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the CAA football conference.
"We needed a big game and got it," Nova's head coach Andy Talley said. "I think that's as good of a game as we've played since the ODU game. We put 300 [rushing] yards on the number-one defense in the league. That's really impressive."
"The only disappointment I had was that I don't think we really converted on the turnovers."
The 'Cats had two interceptions of JMU quarterback Justin Thorpe, in the game. One of those, in the second quarter, resulted in a field goal, but the other was not converted for any points.
Kevin Monangai continued his violent rushing success, picking up yardage without much trouble for much of the game — reaching 100 yards on the ground for the fourth-straight time against the statistically-strongest rushing defense in the conference. The CAA's leading rusher broke the 1,000-yard mark for the season during the second half of the contest. He is only the fourth player in program history to reach that mark. The other three were Curtis Sifford in 1996, Aaron Ball in 2008 and Brian Westbrook in 1998, 2000 and 2001.
He had 150 yards total in the game and scored one touchdown.
"He's a hard runner and did a great job," Talley explained. "I think what Kevin has developed into, and in our offense we don't necessarily have a 30 play runningback — he's usually a 14 play guy — he's proven that you can give him the ball 25 to 30 times in a game. He's our horse. He's our guy now.
"He's as strong on the last play as he is on the first play."
Monangai is the clubhouse leader to take the CAA's rushing title this season, especially if he can replicate his recent success next weekend at Delaware.
Villanova rushed for 307 yards in the game and produced 455 yards of total offense against the top rushing defense in the CAA. That was no small feat according to Talley, but the Wildcats had a plan of attack for running against the tough JMU defenders.
"I think the concept against them is, don't run laterally because they can run you down and try and aim most of your stuff north and south, because they are really fast," Talley explained. "So we went at them north and south.
"I thought we were more physical than them. I can't say we were more physical than Richmond and we lost that game, and we weren't more physical than Towson and we lost that."
The 'Cats were able to move the ball on offense despite having star receiver Norman White sidelined with an MCL injury that he picked up against Towson prior to the bye week. Joe Price performed admirably in his absence, however, taking defensive attention away from other receivers.
"I'm embarrassed and humiliated by the way we played today," JMU head coach Mickey Matthews said. "We had one million missed tackles, diving at their guys."
"We didn't run, we didn't block, that was the story," according to JMU tailback Dae'Quan Scott.
After struggling against Towson two weeks ago, the defensive line was solid against JMU, picking up two key safeties in the second half — with at least a bit of help from punter Mark Hamilton, who pinned the Dukes in to their 1 yard line on multiple occasions.
"Any time a coaching staff or a player questions your toughness or your physicality, it's going to make you reflect on yourself as a person, as a football player, as a team and especially as a D-line because everything starts with us up front," nose tackle Antoine Lewis said about their performance against Towson.
Villanova won the game in the trenches, with solid blocking from the offensive line and a dominating performance from the defensive line. That defensive line effort produced three sacks on the speedy JMU quarterback, including two safeties.
Though Chris Polony was already leading the offense by that time, the second safety, near the end of the fourth quarter would ultimately ice the game for the Wildcats. Using the ground game, the 'Cats took their 35-20 lead and moved slowly down the field, picking up a few first downs and running the clock down along the way.
When the Dukes finally got the ball for a last chance, the clock was down to under-30 seconds. The 'Cats would get the stop and head into the locker rooms with a chance to win their way into the playoffs next weekend at Delaware.
Quarterback John Robertson's status for next week is still unknown after being pulled from the game when he exhibited some confusion over the play calls. Robertson will be monitored for concussion symptoms during the week, but was not officially concussed, according to Talley. If he is cleared to play against Delaware the coach plans to stick with the redshirt freshman as his starter, however.
Robertson picked up 141 yards in the air on 8-14 passing with one touchdown on a short dump-off to Dorian Wells, who ran it 20 yards the rest of the way. He added 61 more yards on the ground, and two rushing touchdown,s but was sacked 4 times in the contest.