Football: No. 9 James Madison handles ‘Cats

Tim Richer

The Wildcats were never able to recover from a slow start on Saturday. No. 9 James Madison snapped the ‘Cats’ three-game winning streak, 35-7 in Harrisonburg, Va. With the victory, the Dukes (4-1, 2-0 CAA) also broke-up a seven-game ‘Nova winning streak against FCS opponents.

Junior quarterback Rodney Landers dominated Villanova (3-2, 1-1 CAA) as he threw for 300 yards and two passing touchdowns. Landers also added 70 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns. For his efforts, the Dukes’ quarterback was awarded the CAA Offensive Player of the Week.

“I think he had a really good supporting cast with a lot of skill around him and a good offensive line,” Villanova Head Coach Andy Talley said of Landers and the Dukes. “He’s obviously the key to that offense because he runs the option and keeps you honest with his speed.”

The game got off to a cloudy start for the Wildcats as the Dukes drove down the field with ease on their first possession. JMU scored less than five minutes into the contest as Landers found tight end Mike Caussin on a 17-yard pass over the middle of the field to put the host up 7-0.

“I didn’t feel that our team was mentally prepared like you have to be when you’re away,” Talley said. “We went down there too laissez-faire, and they were much more up for the game than we were.”

Villanova was never able to get rolling on offense as it gained a total of just 201 yards, compared to 501 for James Madison. The Dukes kept control of the ball, forcing the Wildcats defense to be on the field for almost two-thirds of the game.

Sophomore quarterback Antwon Young had the only score of the game for ‘Nova when he had a 5-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. Young turned in his weakest performance of the season, completing 15-of-23 passes for 124 yards and one interception.

“We were anemic on offense,” Talley said. “Our offensive line had a horrible day. We couldn’t knock them off the ball, and they pressed Antwon [Young] early.”

As a result of JMU’s extended possessions, three Wildcats finished with double-figure tackles. Sophomore linebacker Osayi Osunde led the team with 11 tackles, while sophomore defensive back Ross Ventrone and freshman linebacker Terence Thomas added 10 tackles apiece.

Villanova’s secondary suffered three injuries as Seniors Zach Mariacher and Derek Durkin and freshman John Dempsey all left the game early. Mariacher’s injury was the most costly; the safety will miss the remainder of the season with a broken arm.

Senior tight end Matthew Sherry was the only Wildcat with a productive offensive game, tallying 60 yards on five receptions. The tri-captain leads the team in 2007 with 18 receptions for 227 receiving yards.

The ‘Cats will attempt to get back on track as they host William & Mary (3-2, 1-1 CAA) on Saturday for homecoming at Villanova Stadium. The last time the two teams met was in Williamsburg, Va., in 2006, when the Wildcats defeated the Tribe 35-31 on a rushing touchdown by senior quarterback Marvin Burroughs in the last minute of the game.

“We have to score some points because they are a high-scoring unit,” Talley said of the upcoming game. “Antwon Young has to have a great day, and we have to be able to run the ball.”