Football Plays Host to James Madison


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Football Plays Host to James Madison

Nick France

Following last week’s walk-off field goal loss to the Maine Black Bears, the (once again) injury-depleted Villanova Wildcats have fallen to a record of 3-3. The Wildcats will take on the James Madison Dukes, who are ranked 6th in the STATS media poll and 8th in the FCS coaches poll, on Saturday. 

The Dukes currently maintain a record of 4-2 and are coming off of a historic upset loss to the Elon Phoenix. Last week, the Dukes entered the game ranked second in the country. Going into last week The Dukes were on a 22-game CAA winning streak, and head coach Mike Houston had never lost at home. As such, even though the Phoenix were ranked ninth in the country, Elon was considered 39.5-point underdogs. However, the Phoenix managed to squeak out a shocking 27-24 victory over the FCS powerhouse Dukes.

Given last week’s loss, look for the Dukes to come out of the locker room with chips on their shoulders this Saturday, trying to prove they’re still a national power. 

The Dukes, especially since Houston took over in 2016, have been known for their stout defense. This year is no different, as they are currently third in the country in scoring defense, holding opponents to an average of 11.3 points per game. In fact, the Dukes shut out two opponents this year, Norfolk State and William & Mary, and would have shut out three if not for a garbage-time touchdown by Robert Morris in Week 2. The Duke’s defense is led by linebacker Dimitri Holloway, the defensive unit’s playmaker, who currently leads the team with 49 total tackles.

On offense, graduate transfer Ben DiNucci has taken the reigns at starting quarterback this season and has led the team well. While the offense is certainly not at the level of the Dukes’ elite defense, the offense is good enough to win games. They spread the ball around on the ground, with four rushers (including DiNucci) with at least 40 rush attempts this season. The leading rusher is senior Marcus Marshall, who has 370 yards on the season. In the air, DiNucci takes care of the ball, with only three interceptions to this point in the season. DiNucci certainly has the arm talent to take over a game. The only question is if the offensive scheme will put him in a position to do so. 

The Dukes will be a tough test for Villanova.  The Wildcats will have to perform at the top of their game if they hope to pull off an upset victory and stop their losing skid.  Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.