FIELD NOTES: Houston Expects Familiar Test From Villanova

Greg Madia, Publisher
Dukes of JMU

JMU Athletic Communications

HARRISONBURG – James Madison is expecting the same tough test it got from Villanova last season.

“It’s a great challenge coming in here Saturday,” second-year JMU coach Mike Houston said at his weekly press conference. “When you look at them on film, they look very much like the Villanova teams of the past.”

The No. 11 Wildcats are 4-2 under first-year coach Mark Ferrante, who has a made seamless transition in replacing ex-longtime coach Andy Talley.

Last November when the two squads squared off in Philadelphia, JMU escaped with a 20-7 win by blanking the Wildcats 13-0 in the second half.

“They’re a big, strong, fast and disciplined defensive team,” Houston said. “And their offense is great compliment to their defense with a punishing rushing attack.”


- Villanova runs a 3-3-5 stack defense, which is unique. Not many defenses use it for a base package, but Villanova does, which has helped the Wildcats have the No. 2 rushing defense (50 yards per game) in all of FCS.

- Houston said having played against Villanova last year, him and his staff have a better idea of how the Wildcats will try to defend JMU.

- Villanova graduated its two starting defensive ends from last year – Tanoh Kpassagnon and Brian Osei. Kpassagnon was a second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in April, but Houston said even though Villanova “maybe doesn’t have the two elite talents it did last year … the guys they have now are playing at a high level.” Villanova starts sophomores Aaron Seigle and Jafonta Johnson at its end spots.

- Houston echoed some of what he said during yesterday’s teleconference in that last year’s win at Villanova was a turning point for JMU’s defense.

- Houston said the outcome would be determined by whatever team makes the fewest mistakes. Last year, Villanova threw four interceptions in the loss to the Dukes.

- After the team’s practice Tuesday, Houston confirmed JMU senior wide receiver John Miller would play Saturday vs. Villanova. Miller missed the team’s win at Delaware with an injury, but was back in full pads at practice.

- Houston said the team’s Tuesday practice “was good with intensity and focus.” He added the team has done a good job so far of keeping its same approach.

- Senior quarterback Bryan Schor said the senior class will probably say something to the rest of the team about staying focused, even though “there’s not much to be said.” Schor said the older players on the team remember how bad they felt after losing when ESPN’s College GameDay visited a few years ago and that they don’t want to experience that feeling again.

- Schor said, “The thing about this team is we don’t let distractions effect us.”

- Schor said he’s focused on studying Villanova’s defense. The 3-3-5 stack defense allows for the Wildcats to bring pressures from different spots on the field. Schor said he’s heavily involved in assisting the offensive line identifying where those blitzes could be coming from.

- Senior offensive tackle Aaron Stinnie said facing the stack actually slows an offensive lineman more in run blocking than pass blocking. He said against the stack, since pressures can come from different spots, that the offensive linemen have to wait until they see those blitzes before trying to push the line of scrimmage forward.

- Senior linebacker Kyre Hawkins said Villanova’s offense is tricky because of how many misdirection plays it’ll run during the course of the game.

- Hawkins said JMU linebackers must keep their eyes on their assigned keys because if not, Villanova has a chance to break big plays. At times linebackers will anticipate a play that isn’t there, Hawkins said, which is why it’s vital for them to trust their keys.

- Senior defensive end Andrew Ankrah said Villanova does a good job of being balanced on offense. He said the Wildcats will run the ball repeatedly and then all of a sudden throw successfully off play action.

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