Story and photo courtesy of Villanova Athletics
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The No. 21 Villanova Wildcats used a dominant rushing attack to register a 35-20 win over the No. 9 James Madison Dukes. Villanova led 33-7 late in the third quarter and controlled the contest throughout. With the win, Villanova improves to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the CAA, while James Madison falls to an identical 7-3 overall and 5-2 in league play.
In the win, Villanova ran for 307 yards on 64 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per rush. This was the fourth time this year that Villanova has gone over the 300-yard rushing mark. James Madison entered the game ranked first in the CAA in both scoring defense (17.6) and rushing defense (116.1).
Sophomore Kevin Monangai led the Villanova rushing game with his fourth straight 100-yard game with 150 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. Monangai also became just the fourth Wildcat player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He now has 1,044 rushing yards on the year.
Redshirt freshman quarterback John Robertson completed 8-of-14 for 141 yards and one touchdown, to go with 21 carries for 61 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Villanova registered three sacks, two interceptions and two safeties. Sophomore Joe Sarnese had eight tackles and an interception, while sophomore linebacker Joey Harmon had six tackles and 2.5 quarterback sacks.
After a three and out defensive stop to start the game, the Wildcats took their opening possession and drove 74 yards to grab a 7-0 lead on a four-yard run by Robertson.
Villanova increased its lead to 10-0 with 12:22 to play in the second quarter when Mark Hamilton connected on a 22-yard field goal. The field goal was set-up by a 68-yard pass from Robertson to wideout Joe Price.
The Villanova defense came up with the game's first turnover, when sophomore safety Joe Sarnese made his team-best fourth interception of the year. The interception gave Villanova the ball at the Duke 45-yard line.
Villanova capitalized on the turnover, as Robertson engineered an 11 play, 45 yard scoring drive that ended in a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Dorian Wells. Robertson kept the drive alive with a nine-yard scramble on fourth and eight from the James Madison 39-yard line.
The story of the first half was the Villanova defense. Villanova held the Dukes to just 90 yards of total offense, including 51 yards rushing and 39 yards passing. The Wildcats rolled up 253 yards of offense in the first half.
On the second play of the second half, a Robertson fumble was recovered by Duke linebacker Stephon Robertson at the Villanova 17-yard line. Four plays later, James Madison quarterback Justin Thorpe scored on a one-yard run to cut the Villanova lead to 17-7.
James Madison's momentum was short lived as the Wildcats came back with a scoring drive of its own. Following an Austin Medley 35-yard run that put Villanova in the red zone, Robertson ran in from a yard out for his second rushing score of the game. The touchdown gave Villanova a 24-7 lead with 10:08 to play in the third quarter.
A tremendous punt by Mark Hamilton pinned the Dukes at the one-yard line midway through the third quarter. On James Madison's second play of the drive, linebacker Joey Harmon and safety Matt McCann sacked Thorpe in the end zone for a safety.
Following the safety, James Madison was forced to kick the ball away to the Wildcats. Sophomore quarterback Chris Polony came in for Villanova and led the Wildcats on a nine play, 55 yard scoring drive. The one-yard scoring run by Monangai gave Villanova a 33-7 lead with 1:22 left in the third quarter.
Two Thorpe touchdown passes in the span of four minutes sliced the Villanova lead to 33-20 with 8:39 to play in regulation. James Madison then got a defensive stop and forced a Villanova punt.
Villanova used a 49-yard punt by Hamilton and a great special teams tackle by Kenny Miles to force the James Madison drive to start at their eight-yard line. After a holding penalty moved James Madison to the four-yard line, Harmon tallied his second sack for a safety to give the Wildcats the 35-20 lead.
Villanova outgained James Madison, 455-231, in the win. The Wildcats also dominated the time of possession (37:51 to 22:09).
Thorpe led James Madison with 178 yards of total offense. He completed 14-of-26 for 123 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also added 55 yards rushing and a score. Dean Marlowe led the Duke defense with 11 tackles.
Villanova will close out the 2012 regular season next Saturday at arch rival Delaware. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.