Plenty at stake for Dukes, Wildcats

HARRISONBURG – James Madison University still has plenty to play for when it hosts Villanova University at noon today for senior day.

The Dukes will most certainly be in the Football Championship Subdivision playoff field, when it is announced on Sunday. However, a win could boost the Dukes to a top-eight seed and a first round bye.

The Wildcats (6-4, 5-2 CAA) have even more to play for as they probably need a win to make it into the playoffs, and they still have a shot at winning the Colonial Athletic Association’s automatic bid to the playoffs. They have won four of their last five games.

“I think they’re hitting their peak probably about the right time of the year,” JMU head coach Everett Withers said. “They’ll be a big challenge offensively, defensively. They’re one of the best defenses, if not the best defense, in our league. We’re going to have to play well to have a chance to win the game.”

JMU could finish in a tie for first with a win, but the Dukes would lose any of the tiebreakers for the CAA automatic bid for the postseason.

Withers said the Dukes (8-2, 5-2 CAA) did not play well in their 24-21 victory over Delaware last week.

It was the second start for sophomore quarterback Bryan Schor, and Withers said he made some bad reads, but he was happy to see him lead the team down for the game-winning score at the end of the game.

“There were several misreads that if he makes the reads then we probably get more explosive plays,” Withers said. “I do know that there’s one run that if he keeps it, he’s still running down I-95. So there’s some things in the ballgame that you go back and you wish were read out better for him, but it is his second start. We made just enough plays. For him to take that last drive and to take it down and score, that’s to me the heart of a guy that can bounce back from not playing very well and make some plays.”

Schor has thrown for 535 yards this season on 43-for-70 passing with three touchdowns. He replaced Vad Lee, who is out for the season due to injury.

Villanova knows plenty about losing a quarterback to injury. Quarterback John Robertson was lost for the season after suffering an injury in the third game of the season. Freshman Zach Bednarczyk took his place and has thrown for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns, and has rushed for 358 yards.

Withers said he thinks Bednarczyk has done a good job.

“I think he’s done well,” Withers said. “Each week I think he’s gotten better in their offense and what they want to do. I think they’ve done a really good job of allowing him to grow and build in the offense.”

The Wildcats have been tough defensively all season. They’ve allowed only 136.3 rushing yards per game, and 171.4 through the air. They are giving up only 16.4 points per contest, and have been led by linebackers Austin Calitro and Don Cherry with a combined 164 tackles.

One thing that could help the Dukes is the emotion of senior day. Withers said he’s been very proud of the 10 seniors who will be honored.

“I’ve been around this group for almost two years now, and when you’re trying to build a culture — the first senior class there just trying to learn it as you go,” Withers said. “I think this senior class — these 10 seniors — have done a really really good job of not only understanding what we want them to do, but also executing what we want to do in our culture. …We’re trying to build something that lasts a while. So hats off to that group because I think that they’ve been awesome all year long.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com

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