Wildcats Fall to James Madison, 31-21
Nov. 2, 2013
HARRISONBURG, Va. - Sophomore wide receiver Kevin Gulyas (Allentown, Pa.) caught the first two touchdown passes of his career in a span of 10 minutes in the first half but No. 20 Villanova (4-5, 3-3 CAA) was defeated 31-21 by James Madison (6-3, 3-2 CAA) at Bridgeforth Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The host Dukes scored 17 unanswered points in a stretch that spanned more than half the game and dealt the Wildcats their third straight loss.
In the first half the teams twice traded touchdowns and the score was tied at 14-14 after Gulyas caught an eight-yard pass for a touchdown with 11:30 left in the second quarter. In the opening period he had hauled in an 18-yard reception which tied the score at 7-7 after James Madison got on the scoreboard first.
Gulyas finished the day with four receptions for 51 yards, both of which were career highs. Junior tight end Earnest Pettway (Long Beach, Calif.) had a team-high five catches for 57 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown reception with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter that accounted for the final points of the game.
Sophomore quarterback John Robertson (Paramus, N.J.) threw for a season-high 219 yards while going 20-of-37 through the air with two touchdowns and one interception. Sophomore running back Gary Underwood (Cincinnati, Ohio) also threw a touchdown pass.
Both teams went three-and-out on their first possessions of the game before the Dukes opened the scoring for the day on a 12-play scoring drive that ended on Khalid Abdullah's six-yard touchdown run with 8:29 to play in the first quarter. James Madison ran for 141 yards in the game and 117 yards of that total (83%) came in the first half. Dae'Quan Scott scored on an 11-yard run with 5:31 left in the opening quarter.
After the Dukes took the lead in the middle of the first period Villanova responded quickly to tie the game at 7-7. Junior return man Poppy Livers (Seaside, Calif.) ran back the ensuing kickoff for a career-long return of 45 yards and the Wildcats started with excellent field position at the James Madison 48-yard line. It took just five plays for Villanova to score and tie the game.
When the Dukes got the ball back with the game tied their first play was a 50-yard pass from quarterback Michael Birdsong to Brandon Ravenel, starting a 75-yard drive which James Madison needed just three plays to finish off. The touchdown run by Scott restored the Dukes lead at 14-7.
Gulyas tied the score again but after his second touchdown reception the Wildcats did not score again until late in the fourth quarter, a scoreless span of just over 40 minutes. Cameron Starke kicked a 30-yard field goal with 5:21 remaining in the second quarter which gave James Madison the lead for good at 17-14.
Following that field goal Villanova had two more possessions before the intermission and also received the ball to open the third quarter. On the drive that began immediately following Starke's field goal the Wildcats went three-and-out. Villanova got the ball against with 2:27 to play in the first half but picked up just 17 yards on six plays and came up short on a fake punt play on fourth-and-three from the Dukes 29-yard line.
The stagnating trend on offense affected both teams equally. Beginning with the Wildcats three-and-out after the field goal the teams combined to score points on just one of the next 14 possessions in the game. Daniel Brown caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Birdsong with 3:52 to play in the third quarter which extended the James Madison lead to 24-14.
In the fourth quarter linebacker De'Andre Smith picked off Robertson and returned the interception 86 yards for a touchdown which put the game out of reach at 31-14.
Birdsong went 20-of-29 for 207 yards and a touchdown. Brown was his top target and finished with eight receptions for 94 yards and a score to lead the Dukes offense.
Sophomore linebacker Don Cherry (Trumbull, Conn.) had a career-high 14 tackles to lead the Villanova defense, while senior defensive end Rakim Cox (San Diego, Calif.) tallied two sacks for the third time this season and the fourth time in his career.
Next Saturday the Wildcats will be back on the road for the fourth time in five weeks when they take on Rhode Island at 12:30 p.m.
NOTES: Villanova and James Madison combined to punt 15 times on 28 drives in the game ... The interception return for a touchdown by the Dukes was the first allowed by the Wildcats since the 2012 season opener against Temple ... Villanova was held to fewer than 200 rushing yards for only the second time in the last seven games ... The defense for the Wildcats tallied eight tackles for loss, matching the second-highest total this season ... Villanova has not forced an opponent turnover in the last 245 plays run by its opposition.