No. 8 ‘Nova takes to the air in win over James Madison



Cailin Brophy

The eighth-ranked Villanova football squad rolled into Virginia last Saturday to face a scrappy James Madison team which has been clawing its way back into Atlantic-10 respectibility this season.

The contest was hard-fought as expected, but in the end the Wildcats were simply too good for the Dukes, and ’Nova rolled to an impressive 30-26 victory.

The ’Cats were led yet again by senior quarterback Brett Gordon. With 11:14 to play and the score knotted at 23-all, Gordon connected with freshman wide receiver John Dieser for the game-winning score. The touchdown was the second of the game for Dieser, who has been stepping up in a big way for ’Nova. The redshirt freshman caught six passes for 136 yards, including two touchdowns, en route to being named Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Week.

“He’s done a great job and is one of the great young receivers in our program,” ’Nova head coach Andy Talley said. “He’ll be a franchise-type player down the line.”

Dieser may be the franchise player of the future, but there is no question who holds that distinction at the present time.

Quarterback Gordon was simply unstoppable against James Madison as he led a textbook aerial attack which the Dukes simply had no answer for. Gordon completed 40 passes on 57 attempts for a whopping 421 yards, while being intercepted only once. The 40 completions were the most ever made by an opponent of James Madison, as well as the most ever thrown at the 29 year-old Bridgeforth Stadium. Gordon’s third career 400-yard passing game included four touchdown passes of two, five, 33 and 25 yards. Gordon is now leading the conference in total offense, pass efficiency and passing average per game.

“Nothing he [Gordon] does surprises me,” Talley said. “He’s really that good. He’s capable of a 400-yard game on any given day.”

The Wildcats drew first blood on the Dukes when Gordon connected on his first scoring pass to tight end Matt Chila at the 4:10 mark of the opening quarter. James Madison then blocked the extra point, but ’Nova kicker Adam James was able to avenge the miss with a 36-yard field goal with 14:44 remaining in the half. The Dukes got on the board when Chris Iorio capped of his team’s drive with a five-yard run into the endzone, yet the Dukes missed the extra point. ’Nova answered back quickly, however, as Gordon teamed up with Dieser for the first time in the game with a 33-yard touchdown strike, giving the ’Cats a slim 12-10 lead going into the locker rooms.

The Dukes came out with increased intensity in the second half, as Alan Harrison hit Casime Harris with a 30-yard touchdown pass. The Dukes got some quality play from their special teams in the third, as sophomore Rodney McCarter, who was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week, blocked a field goal attempt which teammate Trey Townsend returned 80 yards for a touchdown. The play, which was the first return of a blocked field goal in school history, gave James Madison a 17-12 lead, its first of the game. However, ’Nova battled through the momentum-deflating play and was able to cap off a late-quarter scoring drive with a two-yard Gordon pass to Anthony Wright to reclaim the lead, 23-20.

The outcome was still uncertain heading into the final period, and when James Madison kicker Burke George put a 42-yard kick through the uprights with 14:06 to play, the stage was set for a big play. The duo of Gordon and Dieser once again answered the call. With 11:14 to play, Dieser was able to pull down a 25-yard strike from Gordon in the endzone to reclaim the lead for good.

The Dukes rounded out the scoring with a field goal with six minutes to play, but it was too little, too late as the Wildcats pulled out their fourth win of the season, remaining undefeated on the road.

Coach Talley was pleased with the maintained focus and effort of his team.

“We really took control in the last 10 minutes,” he said. “It was good to see them push that last touchdown in.”

Gordon echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“It was really good to see the team rally,” he said. “It’s definitely something that’s good to see at this point in the season.”