HARRISONBURG — There are a few signs that Kyre Hawkins looks for from an opposing quarterback.
If the James Madison senior inside linebacker can spot them, odds are a momentum-swinging play could be next for the Dukes defense.
“We can get a feel for it a little bit,” Hawkins said. “He starts to panic a little bit and starts running around a little bit more. He just becomes more indecisive and not as confident when he’s moving around.
“The more hits on the quarterback, the more flustered he gets.”
Saturday, when top-ranked JMU hosts No. 11 Villanova, Hawkins and his teammates hope to see Wildcats freshman quarterback Jack Schetelich show some of those weaknesses.
Schetelich, getting the nod in place of injured junior Zach Bednarczyk, is set to make his second career start this weekend.
The last time JMU faced a freshman quarterback, the Dukes called for the blitz more often and mixed where the pass rush was coming from to pressure Maine’s Chris Ferguson into three interceptions. Ferguson was sacked four times in JMU’s 28-10 win on Sept. 23.
“Our goal at the end of day is to make the quarterback as flustered as possible, but it probably will be something [Schetelich] is not used to,” Hawkins said. “He’s not going to be used to the pressure we put on him and how we get up in his face. We’ll be all around him.
“And it’s not just because he’s a freshman, but it’s just because he’s our competition. He is the target. We want to make them as flustered as possible and hopefully, we create some turnovers off of it.”
Through five games, JMU is on pace to eclipse the number of sacks and tackles for loss it had last year.
Currently, the Dukes have registered 12 sacks and 32 tackles for loss. Five games into last season, the team had five sacks and 20 tackles for loss.
Senior defensive end Andrew Ankrah said defensive coordinator Bob Trott has been able to call more blitzes because the players understand how to execute them.
“I know when we run a certain type of blitz, say it’s an inside pinch,” Ankrah said, “I have to pinch the B gap because somebody is coming off the edge, so if I take away my gap, that will shorten the edge for [the blitzer].
“I want to make sure I do my job, and it’s really an unselfish thing. If you take the gap away, it might be closed off or it might be free. If it’s closed off, the next guy is going to make the play, so it’s a puzzle.”
First-year Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said he would show Schetelich as much as he could this week to prepare him for the different types of pressures JMU would bring.
The 12 sacks this year are spread out among a few JMU defenders — Hawkins and senior safety Jordan Brown each have 2.5 sacks, Ankrah and junior defensive end Darrious Carter each have two sacks and senior defensive tackle Cornell Urquhart, sophomore defensive lineman Ron’Dell Carter and senior linebacker Brandon Hereford each have one.
“We will show [Schetelich] as much as we can within the restrictions of practice,” Ferrante said Monday. “But we’re going to do our normal Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday preparation and our normal Friday walkthrough. We’re going to show him as much as we can whether that’s their blitz package or base defense.”
When JMU beat Villanova 20-7 last November in Philadelphia, the Dukes intercepted Bednarczyk four times.
Second-year JMU coach Mike Houston said his defense must set itself up in order to call the blitz.
“If we can be great on first and second down, and put their offense in a third-and-7-plus situation,” Houston said, “then it gives us the ability to pressure if we want to, to play coverage if we want to. I think the more we mix it up, and consistently give [Schetelich] looks that aren’t the same or might cause confusion, I think that might be the key.”