Villanova Defeats James Madison With a Strong Second Half

Villanova Erases a Halftime Deficit, Converts a Critical 4th and 1 to Earn a 28 – 27 Win

October 9, 2021 –

In a game that featured many twists, turns, and changes in momentum. The game came down to Villanova converting a 4th and 1 for a first down from deep in their own territory to bring home a 28 – 27 road win over #2 James Madison University. In getting the victory the #12 Wildcats overcame a halftime deficit. The defense was able to turn away the Dukes, who missed on two field goal attempts, completing a second half shutout. The win ended a 5-game JMU winning streak over Nova.

“We did what we needed to do,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante. “I’m super proud of our team, super proud of their resilience, and super proud of their stick-to-it-iveness. It was one of those crazy CAA games that came down to the last play of the game, and fortunately enough we were able to make the play when we needed it at the end of the game.”

Let’s set the stage.

Villanova came back to take a 28 – 27 lead late in the third quarter. With 7:25 on the clock JMU drove the ball to the Villanova 22-yard line. At the 2:12 mark Dukes kicker Ethan Ratke came on the field to attempt a 36-yard field goal attempt that would give his team the lead. His kick hit the left upright and bounced away. Ratke is the FCS leader in made field goals. Earlier in the quarter his kick missed wide-right.

Nova took over at their own 20-yard line needing a first down. After three running plays it was 4th and 1 at the Villanova 29-yard line. Decision time for the coach and team. Either get the first down and win it, or punt and leave it up to the defense. Because it was so close to the first down marker, and the team wanted to go for it. Ferrante put his trust in the players to execute properly. The choice was made.

“When I saw the want to, the linemen, ‘Cov’ himself, the look in their eyes, I had to put the ball in their hands and let them go win it or not,” Ferrante said. “And they went and won it.”

Quarterback Daniel Smith handed the ball to running back Justin Covington who gained two-yards with 1:56 to play. The Cats kept the ball for the rest of the game.

“We had some initial push, and I stretched the ball out before I was down, so I knew I made the first down,” said Covington. I knew we could take a couple of knee’s and win the game.”

“Ethan Ratke pushing one right and hitting the left upright we the plays of the half,” thought Ferrante.

Early in the game it looked as though this game would be a shootout. Each team punted only once in the first half. Villanova held a 13 – 10 lead after one quarter on touchdown runs of 15-yards by Smith and a 56-yard run by Covington.

“Our balance is what kept us going,” Smith said. “We were able to run the ball effectively, we were able to throw the ball effectively. We feel like our game plan was good in that first half we were executing well.”

James Madison came back scoring 17 second quarter points and held Villanova to minus-11 yards of total offense in the quarter. The Dukes got touchdown runs from Cole Johnson and Percy Agyei-Obese along with a Ratke field goal. They would score no more. The Cats dug in on defense led by linebacker number 43 Forrest Rhyne who had a career-high 20 tackles.

“Number 43 is involved in a number of plays,” Ferrante said. “Just having him in there gives everyone confidence. He gets guys lined up correctly. He is an inspirational leader not only with his play, but his personality. He is a benefit on the field.”

The Villanova defense stiffened giving up only 12-yards of offense in the third quarter. Kicker Cole Bunce converted two field goals of 43 and 42 yards to get Nova in proximity. Taking over after a Dukes punt the Wildcats started a decisive drive at their 29-yard line with 4:08 remaining. The 2-play, 71-yard drive concluded with a 57-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Rayjoun Pringle who hauled in 8 passes for 132 yards.

The string of 14 straight CAA wins by James Madison comes to an end with a meaningful Nova victory. The team can enjoy for a day, their first win at JMU since 2009, the year the Cats won the national championship. Then look ahead.

“It definitely feels great,” Covington said. “We knew we could win this game. It’s a good win, a confidence win. We’re going to enjoy it for the next twenty-four hours and get ready for Albany.”


Written By: Glenn Papazian


Justin Covington (in white) who Ran for 86 yards. Photo Courtesy of Villanova Athletic Communications

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