The Villanova Wildcats returned home in search of their first CAA win of the season against the 6th ranked James Madison Dukes, but fell 37-0, falling to 3-4 on the season and 0-4 in the CAA.
Head coach Mark Ferrante’s squad has been ravaged by injuries, highlighted by the losses of starting quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, fellow captain Jeff Steeb, and tight end Ryan Bell. That meant sophomore Jack Schetelich started his second consecutive game at quarterback.
Ferrante was prepared for those losses to hinder the Wildcats, but not to this degree.
“With the production we had on the field today, more than I had anticipated," he said.
It was a tough day for the Wildcat offense as they were only able to manage 157 yards of offense on the day, 94 through the air and only 63 on the ground. Schetelich went 7-13 through the air for 71 yards. Their leading rusher was Aaron Forbes who rushed for 45 yards on 16 attempts.
After Villanova started the game with a quick three and out, Dukes quarterback Ben Dinucci led an efficient 11-play, 52-yard drive resulting in a 31-yard field goal from red shirt sophomore Ethan Ratke, giving James Madison a 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats made their way to the James Madison 31-yard line, but failed to convert on 4th down, giving the Dukes the ball back. James Madison responded with a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Marcus Marshall to give James Madison a 10-0 lead into the second quarter.
Villanova had another three and out and downed James Madison at their own 21, but an offsides penalty forced a replay of the down. The second kick was blocked by red shirt senior Jimmy Moreland and recovered by Drew Painter, brother of Villanova basketball’s Dylan. The Wildcats defense held and forced a pooch punt from Dinucci.
That Wildcats drive saw senior wide receiver Adeyemi DaSilva behind center. DaSilva’s first two drives did not show much improvement, and Ratke added a 32-yard field goal to give the Dukes a 13-0 lead.
Through the air, DaSilva did not get too many opportunities, but was 4-5 for 23 yards.
The Wildcats forced a three and out and had the ball on their own 39 with 2:33 left in the half and started to move the ball just over the 50-yard line. The drive came to a quick end, however, when James Madison corner back Jimmy Moreland forced a strip-sack recovered by Landan Word.
The Dukes did not move the ball on the ensuing drive, but Ratke added a 31-yard field goal, his third, to put James Madison up 16-0 going into the half.
Early in the 3rd quarter punter Nathan Fondacaro had a 51 yard punt downing the Dukes at their own 9. However, the second illegal formation penalty on a punt forced a re-kick and D’Angelo Amos returned it 89 yards for a touchdown to give James Madison a 23-0 lead.
Small mistakes such as illegal formations can be too much to overcome against a team like James Madison.
“We just had one guy off the ball. We have a couple different formations and we ask one guy, maybe a couple of guys, to do maybe more than they can handle to be honest with you,” Ferrante said.
The next punt ended in the same result, as Amos returned this one 81 yards and the game was now completely out of reach at 30-0 in favor of James Madison.
Schetelich was put back in as quarterback but the Wildcats were unable to get anything going on offense, and Dinucci run in a touchdown from one yard out to give the Dukes a lead of 37-0.
Dinucci had a strong game, going 21-31 through the air for 171 yards and a 107.6 QBR, in addition to a rushing touchdown.
The Wildcat defense obviously struggled, but the special teams play hurt them the most. James Madison totaled 302 yards of offense, 131 of them through the ground.
“We have a bye week next week so hopefully we’ll heal up, not only physically but mentally, and we’ll come back and get ready to go to work,” said Ferrante.
Villanova has their bye next week and returns to action on October 27th, Homecoming weekend, against New Hampshire at 2pm ET at Villanova Stadium.