Football Suffers Heartbreaking First Loss to James Madison

Villanova lost its first game of the season this weekend to national powerhouse, James Madison. The Dukes avoided an upset by scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, and taking advantage of some Wildcat miscues to end the game, 38-24.

The game began in front of a packed Bridgeforth Stadium crowd, with the No. 2 ranked Dukes vs No. 5 ‘Cats matchup serving as James Madison’s homecoming game. The Dukes got off on the right foot by scoring on their opening drive, with a pass from quarterback Ben DiNucci to wide receiver Riley Stapleton. The next Villanova drive would culminate with a missed Drew Kresge field goal, blocked by JMU’s D’Angelo Amos. However, Villanova’s defense would respond by forcing a punt on a shortened field.

Villanova would score at the very beginning of the second quarter with a 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Daniel Smith to wide receiver Changa Hodge. The second quarter would continue to be a seesaw battle, as Ben DiNucci would respond by throwing another touchdown to Riley Stapleton to extend their lead to 14-7. The Wildcats would then trade punts and field goals to end the second quarter and go to the locker rooms with the Dukes leading, 17-10.

Head coach Mark Ferrante would bring the Wildcats out of the locker room swinging, with Villanova taking an 11-play, 81-yard drive to score with a touchdown pass from Smith to tight end Todd Summers. The Wildcat defense would then force a three-and-out, which the offense took advantage of, by scoring once more with another Smith-to-Hodge connection.

Leading 24-17, the Wildcats were poised to shock the FCS world and beat the second-best team in the country as road underdogs. However, the Dukes’ defense had other plans. They would force a fumble on the first play of the fourth, recovering it and then taking a 39-yard drive to score a touchdown and tie the game. The Dukes’ MJ Hampton would then intercept Daniel Smith and run it back 83 yards for a touchdown, giving them the lead once more. Down 7, the Wildcats would drive down the field and be forced to kick a 29-yard field goal, which Kresge missed. Running back Latrele Palmer would then score a 69-yard rushing touchdown to extend the Dukes’ lead to 38-24, and two consecutive interceptions of Daniel Smith by Rashad Robinson and Adam Smith, respectively, would end the game.

Villanova’s loss was their first of the year, dropping them to 6-1 and 3-1 in CAA conference play. James Madison, meanwhile, is now 6-1, with their only loss to FBS opponent West Virginia.

The Wildcats will have a bye week next weekend, before their homecoming game on October 26th, against Stony Brook. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.