The No. 2 James Madison Dukes may have looked to breeze by the No. 5 Villanova Wildcats, but that isn’t entirely the case. Well, at least not for the first three quarters. Villanova had a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter. That’s when the Dukes woke up and took control of the game. The Dukes responded to tie the game early in the fourth quarter after a Wildcats fumble. Then, the turnover bug bit Villanova once again on their next possession when MJ Hampton intercepted a pass and took it 83 yards to the house. The Wildcats continued to struggle in their last three possessions with a missed field goal and two consecutive interceptions.
Villanova quarterback played extremely well for three quarters. He finished the day with 387 yards and three touchdowns, but those three interceptions will haunt him until next week. Changa Hodge led the Wildcats receivers with eight catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Todd Summers had the other touchdown reception and put up 51 yards. Zac Kerxton had four catches for 95 yards, and Jaaron Hayek had five receptions for 86 yards. Both Hodge and Kerxton caught passes over 40 yards. Linebacker Forrest Rhyne had a great day with 13 tackles, three tackles for a loss, and two sacks.
While the Wildcats dominated through the air, the Dukes had a more balanced attack on offense. Ben DiNucci went 20-of-32 for 216 yards and three touchdowns. Riley Stapleton caught two of those touchdown passes and led the Dukes with 44 yards. Brandon Polk also had 44 yards and a 26-yard touchdown catch that sparked the fourth-quarter rally. Latrele Palmer sealed the game for JMU with a 69-yard touchdown run and had 109 rushing yards on the day. John Daka and Adam Smith had nine tackles each. Daka also had two sacks, five tackles for a loss, and a forced fumble, while Smith had an interception. Hampton had six tackles to go along with his pick-six. Rashad Robinson had the other pick.
The loss for Villanova briefly takes them out of the race for the CAA title. They now sit behind both James Madison and New Hampshire who are the only undefeated teams left in the conference. The Wildcats now sit at 6-1 and are still in a good spot to clinch a playoff spot depending on the rest of their season. They’re off next week and will try to bounce back against Stony Brook. The Dukes now control their destiny in getting the automatic bid for the FCS Football Playoffs. They are also now 6-1 on the season but are 6-0 against FCS teams. They’ll go on the road to play William & Mary next week.