VILLANOVA, PA (WWBT) - In a key Colonial Athletic Association football match up, James Madison got off to a slow start that it could not overcome with a fourth-quarter rally in a 35-20 loss at Villanova Saturday. With the defeat, the Dukes fell to 7-3 and 5-2 in CAA play, while the Wildcats improved to 7-3 and 5-2 in league action.
JMU could only manage 231 yards of offense on the day, including just 90 in the first half, while VU put up 455 total yards of offense, including 307 on the ground. The Dukes also struggled on third downs, going 4-for-12, while VU was 6-for-13 on third down opportunities.
Villanova running back Kevin Monangai led all rushers with 150 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, while quarterback John Robertson had 21 carries for 61 yards and a pair of scores. Robertson was also 8-of-14 for 141 yards and a touchdown through the air.
Redshirt senior quarterback Justin Thorpe was just 14-for-26 for 123 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while having 14 carries for 47 yards and one score. Redshirt junior running back Dae'Quan Scott was limited to 45 yards on 12 rushes. Sophomore safety Dean Marlowe led the Dukes with 11 tackles including seven solos, while redshirt junior linebacker Stephon Roberts had 10 tackles, two for loss, one sack and one forced fumble.
After forcing the Dukes into a 3-and-out on their first possession, the Wildcats put together a solid opening drive, going 74 yards over 10 plays in 4:44. Robertson slashed his way in from four yards out and the extra point gave Villanova a 7-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game.
A big from 68-yard catch and run from a pressured Robertson to wide receiver Joe Price set up the next Villanova score early in the second quarter. After getting down to the Dukes' 5 on the play, the JMU defense held from there and forced a 22-yard field goal by kicker Mark Hamilton to make it 10-0 Villanova with 12:22 remaining in the first half.
After a Thorpe interception gave the Wildcats the ball at the JMU 45, Villanova tacked more points on the board. It took the VU 11 plays but wide receiver Dorian Wells took a screen pass, made four JMU defenders miss and scored a 20-yard touchdown. The point after was good and the host Wildcats led 17-0 with 5:18 to go in the second quarter.
Madison came out fired up and on the second play from scrimmage made an impact defensively. As Robertson went around the left side, Robertson stripped him of the ball and redshirt senior defensive end Aaron Harper fell on it at the VU 18. From there, the Dukes found the end zone on Thorpe's 1-yd run and redshirt junior Cameron Starke's PAT was good, cutting the lead to 17-7 just over two minutes into the second half.
Villanova had an immediate answer, sparked by Austin Medley's 35-yard rush to the JMU 14. From there, the Wildcats punched it in on Robertson's second touchdown of the day, this time from one yard out. With just under five minutes to go in the third quarter, the Wildcats again led by 17 at 24-7.
After a Thorpe interception, the JMU defense recorded two sacks to back up Villanova to punt. The high booming punt was downed on the 1-yard line. On second down, Thorpe tried to roll out to his right but could not unload the ball in time and was brought down for a safety to extend VU's lead to 26-7 with six minutes left in the third quarter. Then reserve quarterback Chris Polony led a 9-play drive that resulted in Monangai's 1-yd touchdown to make it 33-7 Villanova with 1:22 to go in the third.
Early in the fourth, Madison cut into the lead with an 11-play, 72 yard drive, capped off by Thorpe's 13-yard touchdown pass to redshirt senior tight end Brian Barlow. The two-point conversion failed and JMU trailed 33-13 with 12:39 left in the game.
After a 25-yard punt return by Ryan Smith gave the Dukes the ball at the VU 31, JMU went to a little trick play. With Scott in the wildcat formation, he handed off to DeAndre' Smith who pitched it to Thorpe. From there, Thorpe hit redshirt junior wide receiver Quintin Hunter for a 31-yard score and the lead was cut to 33-20 with just under nine minutes to play.
The defense held on the next possession and forced a Wildcat punt, which went down to the JMU 9. After a pair of holding penalties backed the ball up to the 2, Villanova took care of the final score in the game by sacking Thorpe for the second safety of the game and the Wildcats led 35-20 with 5:33 to go.
JMU returns home to host Old Dominion in the regular season finale for both squads next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7:00pm.