By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Villanova Wildcats are coming off another weekend of heartbreak. They fell just short against Maine, losing 37-35 at home, falling to 4-4 (3-2 in the CAA) on the season. They will look to bounce back on Saturday as they travel down to Virginia to battle James Madison.
The Maine loss is especially painful, seeing as it came a week after the Wildcats lost another close one, falling to New Hampshire in the final seconds, 29-28.
“It’s been a tough two-game run,” Villanova head coach Andy Talley tells KYW Newsradio. “With this two-point loss to Maine, who’s very good, and the week before, a one-point loss to UNH. So we have to gather up and go to JMU now.”
While they have fallen short the last couple of weeks, the Wildcats have gotten just unbelievable play from their sophomore quarterback John Robertson. In his last three games, Robertson has rushed for 620 yards and 10 TD’s, while completing 79% of his passes, including three more scores.
“John has been magnificent,” Talley says. “Certainly one of the very best quarterbacks in the country, at any level. I mean he’s the (Texas A & M quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner) Johnny Manziel of FCS football. But too much has been put on his shoulders. We need our running game to get going. Our offensive line needs to get moving a little bit so we can get our fine running backs Kevin Monangai and Austin Medley moving the ball. We’ve lost some receivers now, Joe Price is out, (Jamal) Abdur-Rahman is out for the year. So we have to be careful about the way we throw the football. But he needs some help for sure. And we need some turnovers.”
James Madison is 5-3 on the season, 2-2 in the CAA and a perfect 5-0 at home in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Talley says this game will go a long way towards determining how the rest of the season plays out.
“This is an elimination game for both of us,” Talley says. “Because either one of us lose this game, we’re probably going to be out as a potential playoff team. So it’s critical for us. We have to find a way to beat this really good JMU team.”
Talley talks about what they will have to deal with when they match-up with the Dukes.
“They are speedy on defense, as always,” Talley says. “They have great athletes at JMU. And they have a terrific quarterback in a guy named Michael Birdsong. He’s 6’5″, 240-pounds, and he can sling the football.”
Birdsong has thrown for 1,782 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
Last year, Villanova beat James Madison 35-20 at Villanova Stadium.
Saturday’s game will kick-off at 2:30pm.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.