Vil­lanova still in search of first win in league play

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Terry Toohey ttoohey@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ter­ryToohey on Twit­ter

Life doesn’t get any eas­ier this week for the Vil­lanova Wild­cats.

Af­ter con­sec­u­tive losses to na­tion­ally ranked Stony Brook and Maine, by a grand to­tal of five points, the ‘Cats re­turn home to face a James Madi­son team that won the FCS ti­tle in

2016, lost in the fi­nal last year and has won or shared the last three Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion ti­tles.

That, though, is only part of the story.

For the first time in nearly three years the sixth-ranked Dukes (4-2 over­all, 2-1) are com­ing off a loss in the league. Elon snapped JMU’s 20-game CAA win­ning streak when Avery Jones caught a 15-yard touch­down pass from Davis Cheek with 1:27 to play to give the Phoenix a 27-24 come­from-be­hind vic­tory last Satur­day.

It was JMU’s first league loss since a 44-41 de­ci­sion to Wil­liam & Mary on Oct. 31,

2015.

“I’m sure they’ll come in here pretty fired up com­ing off of a loss,” Vil­lanova coach Mark Fer­rante said. “I think our guys will, too. Am I shocked they lost? No, in this league, it can hap­pen on any given week.”

The Wild­cats, though, have big­ger con­cerns than deal­ing with a ticked off James Madi­son squad Satur­day (1 p.m.) at Vil­lanova Sta­dium.

The Wild­cats (3-3, 0-3) are still in search of their first league win and again are fight­ing the in­jury bug, specif­i­cally at quar­ter­back. Red­shirt se­nior Zach Bed­nar­czyk did not play in last week’s loss to Maine due to a shoul­der in­jury and his sta­tus for Satur­day once again could be a game-time de­ci­sion.

“Last week he didn’t re­ally prac­tice or put the pads on,” Fer­rante said. “Yes­ter­day and to­day he had the pads on and he’s tak­ing reps in prac­tice. He is throw­ing the ball, but he’s not full speed. He’s get­ting bet­ter ev­ery day and we’re hop­ing that by the end of the week he can go.”

It’s go­ing to take an over­all ef­fort to get Vil­lanova its first league vic­tory. The Dukes are 10th na­tion­ally in scor­ing of­fense (40.2), third in scor­ing de­fense (11.3), sixth in yards per punt re­turn (20.80) and ninth in yards per kick­off re­turn (26.73).

“They’re the cream of the crop in our league so it’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge and I think our guys are up for it,” Fer­rante said.

Steven­son at Wi­dener 1 p.m. Satur­day

The Pride (3-3, 3-1 MAC) en­ter home­com­ing rid­ing a three-game win­ning streak, but will be with­out their lead­ing rusher. Donte’ Har­rell suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing ACL tear in last week’s 41-25 vic­tory at King’s. It was the third straight year Har­rell had his sea­son ended with a knee in­jury.

The in­jury came a day be­fore he was named as a can­di­date for the Mayo Clinic Come­back Player of the Year award.

“I’m just heart­bro­ken,” Wi­dener coach Mike Kelly said.

As tough as the loss of Har­rell is, Wi­dener still has two solid backs in ju­nior Chris Ran­dle and sopho­more John Bauer. Ran­dle, the 2016 MAC Rookie of the Year, has rushed for 370 yards and is av­er­ag­ing 5.9 yards per carry. In con­fer­ence play, Ran­dle ranks fourth in rush­ing yards per game (82.7) and per carry (8.0). Bauer has 221 yards rush­ing and is av­er­ag­ing 6.1 yards per at­tempt.

The win­ning streak has Wi­dener back in the hunt for the MAC ti­tle. The Pride is tied for third with Steven­son (4-2,

3-1), one game be­hind Delaware Val­ley and Mis­eri­cor­dia in the loss col­umn. Steven­son’s only losses have been to na­tion­ally ranked Frost­burg (No.

6 in coaches poll and No. 5 in

D3­foot­ball.com rank­ings) and Delaware Val­ley (No. 17/22).

“We’re fight­ing for our play­off life right now,” Kelly said. “If we can win out, we’ll get the au­to­matic bid. That Key­stone Cup (against Del Val) at the end of the year will mean some­thing, but right now it’s about go­ing into each week be­ing 0-0. … So here we are play­ing for what we want to play for at this time of year.”

Delaware Game­cocks at Wil­liamson

1 p.m. Satur­day

The Me­chan­ics (5-0) look to re­main un­beaten when the host the Game­cocks Satur­day. Wil­liamson has been re­silient. Its last three wins have been by a to­tal of five points, in­clud­ing last week’s 21-19 vic­tory over Thad­deus Stevens.

The Me­chan­ics needed a blocked field goal by fresh­man line­backer Gregg Kim­mel (Ri­d­ley) with a minute to play to seal the vic­tory. Kim­mel also had five tack­les and a hurry in his first col­le­giate game and was named USCAA De­fen­sive Player of the Week.

The Game­cocks have won the last two meet­ings. Wil­liamson’s last vic­tory was a 2216 vic­tory at home in the 2015 sea­son fi­nale.

In other ac­tion this week­end, Tem­ple (3-3, 2-0 AAC) looks for its sec­ond straight win and fourth in five games when it trav­els to Navy (23, 1-1) for a 3:30 p.m. show­down with the Mid­ship­men (CBSSN).

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO – VIL­LANOVA UNIVER­SITY

Quar­ter­back Zach Bed­nar­czyk, seen in a game ear­lier this year against Buck­nell, missed last week’s game with a left shoul­der in­jury but has been prac­tic­ing. His sta­tus is still ques­tion­able.

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