Andy Talley's final regular-season game at Villanova Stadium didn't turn out to be memorable.
Unless you happen to bleed James Madison purple.
The ninth-ranked Wildcats had a chance to secure a spot in the FCS playoffs Saturday afternoon against No. 6 JMU. And tie for first place in the Colonial Athletic Association with one game left. Instead they lost, 20-7, despite holding the Dukes (9-1, 7-0) - who played the last three quarters with a freshman quarterback who hadn't played before - 29 points below their scoring average.
It didn't matter, because the Wildcats (7-3, 5-2) turned the ball over three times on downs (once on a failed fake punt), plus had a short field goal blocked on their first possession of the third quarter that would have put them in front by three. And Zach Bednarczyk, who got their touchdown on a 56-yard run early in the second quarter, threw four interceptions under relentless pressure, all on tipped balls, including three in the last 20 minutes.
"We had the kind of defensive effort we needed to win," said Talley, who is retiring after 32 seasons. "But the offense was disappointing, which surprised me. Our line did not have a very good game."
JMU clinched its second CAA title, and first since 2008, which was also the last time it won here. That was on a Hail Mary.
"To have the adversity we had and still win is . . . special," said first-year coach Mike Houston. "[Talley] told me maybe they'll see us again in the playoffs. I sure hope not."
Now the Wildcats might have to win next week at Delaware (4-6, 2-5) to get into the 24-team field. They've beaten the Blue Hens - who switched coaches a month ago - four in a row and nine of the last 10. They might still get in at 7-4, but then they probably wouldn't get another home game in the opening round. Talley is 8-2 on the Main Line in the postseason.
"We just want to keep this thing going as long as we can," said linebacker Austin Calitro, one of 10 fifth-year seniors. "It's not easy [to regroup], but we have to do it. This week is out the window."
The Dukes got a TD on their opening drive and added another with 2 minutes, 36 seconds left, when they had to go only 7 yards.
Bryan Schor suffered an undisclosed injury on the first play of the second period after completing 10 of 11 passes for 108 yards. Cole Johnson went 5 for 12 for 43 the rest of the way.
Bednarczyk finished 12 for 30 for 71 yards. In last week's 26-7 win at Maine he threw for a career-best 326 yards. Villanova rushed for 168 yards on 31 attempts.
"We were our own worst enemy," said Talley. "When [Schor] went down I was like, 'OK.' He's really their team.
"We've gone to Delaware before having to win. It's nothing new. We'll find out if we're worthy. We're at the point where we're just trying to be a playoff team."