We know that was a tough one, Tribe fans. But some good came out of it. Here, we begin our recap of Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech.
While the Tribe offense only put up 9 points and failed to score a touchdown, we think there were some positives, namely the running game and Steve Cluley. The running game was fairly strong throughout: led by Mikal Abdul-Saboor’s 85 yards on 10 touches, the Tribe racked up 120 yards on the ground against a formidable Tech defense. Abdul-Saboor showed he is more than capable of playing against FBS talent, even breaking off a big 40-yard gain. Kendall Anderson also ran considerably well, gaining 20 yards on just 3 carries. If the Tribe can put up these numbers on the ground against a stout Virginia Tech defense, there’s no telling what we can do against lesser FCS opponents.
To the quarterback: while sophomore Steve Cluley didn’t necessarily shine, going 8/21 for 108 yards, I like what I saw from him (in his FIRST ever collegiate start). He showed poise in the pocket, showed he could scramble when pressure was brought, and really spun the ball on some deep throws. He wasn’t scared of Tech’s fearsome DBs, throwing several well-placed balls downfield. In the first half, Cluley launched one up to McBride in single coverage, completing the pass for 43 yards and setting up the Tribe in the red zone. Cluley also had a perfectly thrown ball intended for freshman DeVonte Dedmon broken up by superstar Kendall Fuller’s fingertips (which was without a doubt, one of the most impressive highlights of the game). Had that ball been completed, Cluley would have 150 yards and a touchdown, and the game would have been 20-13.
Yes, the defense did give up 488 yards and 34 points, but they had their moments. We have no worries that this defense will return to form once they play Hampton next weekend and start the FCS grind. This game showed us two things: it is going to be incredibly hard to score on the Tribe in the red zone, and secondly, this defense can force turnovers.
The defense forced two turnovers against Tech, the first coming off a batted pass on the line that was intercepted by Airek Green. The second was a forced fumble that was picked up and recovered by Airek Green. On top of the two turnovers, several balls were tipped at the line. While forcing two turnovers against an FBS team of Tech’s caliber is noteworthy, what may be the most impressive thing we saw Saturday was the Tribe’s red zone defense.
After Tech forced a strip sack fumble and brough the ball inside the Tribe 5 yard line, it seemed inevitable that the Hokies would punch it in fairly quickly. But the Tribe defense had something else in mind. It took Tech’s offense a grand total of SEVEN tries to score a touchdown. After holding Tech off three plays, then 3 more after a penalty, Hokie QB Michael Brewer hoisted a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. Still, the Tribe flexed its muscle on the goal line and again proved its mettle in a vital part of the game against a strong FBS opponent.
Something that the casual fan may not have noticed in this game is that William and Mary absolutely excelled on special team play. John Carpenter went 3/4 in field goals and most, if not all, of Carpenter’s kickoffs went into and through the end zone. Tre McBride was going strong in the return game before an injury, gaining 74 yards on 3 returns. But the biggest surprise came from the punter, Hunter Windmuller. Windmuller consistently kicked high, booming, and spiraling punts. He had five punts, traveling 260 yards, gaining an average of 52 yards a punt. That’s literally NFL caliber. Need we say more? That type of production from the punter position is largely unheard of at the FCS level. In close games, if the Tribe needs to lean on its special teams unit, it wouldn’t surprised us if they directly win a game or two for the Tribe this year.
Much worse than the end score of the game was the sight of Tribe players leaving the field with injuries. The Tribe suffered three key injuries, all to seniors. First, senior captain Bo Revell got injured on just the third offensive play of the game. He came across the middle and took a hard hit from a Tech defender and was carted off the field. Depth behind Revell is relatively thin and is comprised of players with little or no game experience: Evan McGill, Andrew Caskin, Eric Hensley, and Alec Scheetz.
UPDATE: According to Dave Fairbank of the Daily Press, Bo Revell is out for the year with a foot injury.
Next came senior defensive tackle Jasper Coleman, who was injured just before the first half ended. He did come in to start the second half, but got injured again. Coleman did walk off on his own power both times, so signs are positive for him. His injury status is also unknown.
Finally, Tre McBride. The superstar senior was injured on a kickoff return in the third quarter. He was rolling around in obvious pain after the play, before literally being carried off the field by his teammates, which appeared to be Darnell Laws and Kendall Anderson. He was then checked by the trainers on the training table, and remained there for the rest of the game. He was seen after the game wearing a boot on his left leg. Tre did tweet about his injury, assuring us all that he would be okay. If Tre has to miss significant time, look for true freshman DeVonte Dedmon to see an increased role, along with Sean Ballard and Christian Reeves.
UPDATE: It is confirmed that Tre has an ankle injury, and is listed as day to day (per Dave Fairbank).
Overall, the Tribe put up a very solid all-around effort. The team showed that they have more than enough pieces to put together a successful season in the CAA. Keys to victory will likely be steady quarterback play, a stout defense, and a little bit of luck with the injury bug! Only time will tell. The Tribe continue their season at Hampton next Saturday. Be on the look out for our preview article of the game, coming soon! GO TRIBE!