Soured by setback, JMU seeks rebound
Villanova likely will have starting QB back from shoulder injury
HARRISONBURG — Coming off a rare CAA loss, James Madison coach Mike Houston said this week that the team’s veterans have an understanding that now is the time the Dukes have to hold each other accountable.
“They’ve got to motivate each other,” Houston said. “They want to be coached hard. And that’s something that they’ve asked for. ‘Stay on us, stay after us on the little things.’ ”
JMU dropped a 27-24 game to Elon last Saturday to end its 22game win streak against conference opponents.
The Dukes don’t want that result to linger in a negative way.
“One thing that we always said was, ‘Don’t let Elon beat us twice,’ ” senior running back Trai Sharp said after practice Tuesday.
JMU, now ranked No. 6, travels to play Villanova at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Houston said the Dukes’ success has come because of each other, and they’ll rebound from
last week’s setback because of each other, too.
“I’ve talked to them about things like this a lot,” Houston said. “Just that football games are hard to win. And what we’ve been able to experience here for a couple of years is not reality. I mean, reality is every single week you’re just, you’re scrapping and scraping to try to find a way to get a win.
“And it’s tough when you have a painful loss.
But I think that pain is important. Because if you don’t have that then, obviously, you’re not very invested in the process.”
Villanova (3-3, 0-3 Colonial Athletic Association) is likely to get a boost on Saturday with the return of senior starting quarterback Zach Bednarczyk. He injured his left throwing shoulder in the Wildcats’ 29-27 loss to Stony Brook on Sept. 29 and missed last week’s game against Maine.
Houston said Tuesday that JMU (4-2, 2-1) fully expects Bednarczyk to play Saturday.
“And looking at them with him versus them without him, it’s no comparison,” Houston said.
In five games, Bednarczyk is second in the CAA in passing yards per game (263.8), and tied for second with JMU junior Ben DiNucci and Rhode Island senior JaJuan Lawson for total touchdowns (13).
On defense, Villanova will present a similar look to what the Dukes saw against Elon. Before he joined the Phoenix last year, Elon defensive coordinator Tony Trisciani was the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Villanova.
Villanova and Elon each employ a similar 3-3-5 stack scheme. From his perspective, JMU junior defensive end Ron’Dell Carter said the look can really mess with an offensive line.
“Because you may have three down linemen, but then you got guys blitzing from everywhere, you know what I mean?” Carter said.
Up front, Houston said the Dukes have to make fewer mistakes in assignments in the run game. They were held to 103 yards against Elon.
“Give our running backs cleaner reads,” Houston said. “I think our running backs have to do a much better job of seeing the cuts this week than they did last week. I think we got to do a better job with communication and protections.”
Saturday will be a day when both teams will be be eyeing a rebound — the Wildcats lost 13-10 at Maine last Saturday, on a last-second, 52-yard field goal.
Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said Monday he expects JMU to be fired up, just like his own team.
“You want to get this bad taste out of your mouth,” Carter said.
JMU coach Mike Houston said if you don’t have pain after a tough loss then “obviously, you’re not very invested in the process.”