Oct. 17, 2009
HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) -- Sixth-ranked Villanova (6-1, 3-1 CAA) bounced back from its first loss of the season a week earlier and posted its first shutout since 2002 with a 27-0 victory over No. 16 James Madison (2-4, 0-3 CAA) on Saturday afternoon at Bridgeforth/Showker Stadium. Head coach Andy Talley recorded his 199th career victory with the win as the Wildcats got back on a winning track in a big way.
Against a foe that had won five of the last six head-to-head matchups, including two wins last season, Villanova scored on the game's opening drive and never let the Dukes get back into the game. The Wildcats pushed their lead to 20-0 at halftime and then held the ball for nearly 18 minutes in the second half to finish off their finest defensive effort of the season.
Junior defensive back Fred Maldonado (West Chester, Pa.) and sophomore defensive back James Pitts (Montclair, N.J.) each recovered fumbles on the only turnovers of the game and Villanova limited the strong running game of James Madison to only 116 yards on the ground. Junior defensive back John Dempsey (Secane, Pa.) forced two of three fumbles by the Dukes in the game, while junior linebacker Terence Thomas (Lawrenceville, N.J.) also forced a fumble and finished the day with 10 total tackles. Maldonado had a game-high 11 tackles (6 solo, 5 assisted).
The Wildcats combined their defensive effort with strong special teams play from redshirt freshman kicker Nick Yako (Cleveland, Ohio) and sophomore punter Dominic Scarnecchia (Youngstown, Ohio). Yako averaged 64.8 yards on six kickoffs and Scarnecchia had three of his five punts downed inside the Dukes own 20-yard line.
James Madison had 12 drives in the game and its average starting field position was its own 20-yard line. Of the 12 drives by the Dukes, nine consumed 22 yards or less as James Madison crossed into Villanova territory just twice in the entire game and was never in the red zone. The Dukes missed a 39-yard field goal attempt in the waning seconds of the first half and turned the ball over on downs at the Villanova 42-yard line in the final minute of the game.
There was plenty of offense to go around from the Wildcats side, as junior quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) threw for three touchdowns to match a career high. He finished the day 11-of-16 through the air for 93 yards and the three scores while running the ball 18 times for 97 yards. As a team, Villanova ran for 225 yards and surpassed the 200-yard plateau for the third time this season.
Junior wide receiver Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) caught two of Whitney's three touchdown passes for his first career game with two receiving touchdowns. Szczur caught four passes for 53 yards and also ran eight times for 76 yards. His 44-yard run to the JMU 11-yard line set up field position for the Wildcats for an eventual four-yard pass for a score from Whitney to senior running back Tony Canci (Brookhaven, Pa.).
Yako kicked a season-long 42-yard field goal early in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead and made good on a 32-yard attempt later in the period to improve to 6-of-8 on field goal attempts for the season. In between his two field goals today, Szczur caught a 30-yard touchdown pass with 6:16 left in the second quarter on a four-play drive that started in Dukes territory at the 47-yard line. Szczur closed the scoring with 6:59 left in the third period with a 22-yard touchdown reception.
James Madison quarterback Justin Thorpe was 13-of-32 for 144 yards and also ran 18 times for 65 yards. He also fumbled twice to lead to a pair of turnovers. Tailback Jamal Sullivan ran for 33 yards on 13 carries while Corwin Acker caught a team-high four passes for 50 yards.
The Wildcats return to Villanova Stadium next Saturday for their homecoming game against Rhode Island. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.