Before his team's game against James Madison on Saturday, Villanova coach Mark Ferrante addressed the issue of replacing injured players by saying, "If we put you in the game, we expect you to be able to make the plays. Do your one-eleventh."
Still, when a team is missing seven starters going up against the No. 6-ranked team that has played in the last two FCS Championship games, it is a significant disadvantage to overcome.
Villanova was down, and James Madison kicked the Wildcats hard to the tune of a 37-0 Colonial Athletic Association white-washing at Villanova Stadium on Saturday.
The Dukes (5-3, 3-1 in CAA) got consecutive punt returns for touchdowns in the third quarter by sophomore D'Angelo Amos to blow open the game and basically end the Wildcats' (3-4, 0-4) chances of getting a bid into the FCS playoffs.
Nova now goes into a bye week having lost three straight – all to CAA opponents.
"Well, if you were here early enough to see what I thought would be the keys to the game – us converting third downs, getting up the field, our defense on third down and not given up explosive plays," Ferrante said, "you would see that did not go according to plan.
"We weren't efficient on offense the whole game, but we're down 16-0 at half, but think we're still in it. Then those two punt returns for touchdowns obviously were huge back breakers."
This game was decided before the opening kickoff when it was announced that quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, tight end Ryan Bell, offensive lineman Brandon Hitner, linebacker Jeff Steeb, defensive back Christian Benford, defensive back Terrell Vassel and punt returner Jalen Jackson would not play.
That was too much to overcome against JMU, which had been ranked No.2 until losing last week at Elon – snapping its 20-game CAA winning streak.
"With the production we had on the field today, more than I anticipated," Ferrante said when asked how much not having those players affected the game. "That was a lot of production off the field, but to be that ineffective, I didn't anticipate that."
Villanova had just 157 yards of total offense and was 6 of 16 on third-down conversions.
Although overmatched early, the Wildcats actually held the Dukes to one offensive touchdown until quarterback Ben DiNucci scored in the final minute of the game.
The problem was the Wildcats couldn't move the ball and had to punt to Amos.
The Dukes led 16-0 in the third quarter when Amos received a punt on his 11-yard line and ran 89 yards for a touchdown.
After JMU stuffed Villanova's next possession, Amos returned another punt 81 yards for a score.
The two punt returns for touchdowns tied a James Madison record set in 1981 by former Washington Redskins receiver Gary Clark. It was Amos' third punt return for a score on the season.
"D'Angelo just has a knack for getting things done," said JMU coach Mike Houston.
Amos had three punt returns for a total of 183 yards – 26 more than Villanova had in total offense.
Special teams were a dominant phase for JMU, as it also had three field goals, accounted for 23 points and blocked a punt.
"We have a bye and are giving the guys a few days off," Ferrante said. "I told them to get away from here and heal up physically but just as much mentally.