Although William & Mary defeated Norfolk State by 15 points, it was by no means an easy victory. The Tribe defense played well enough, but the offense still has some work to do before CAA play in two weeks.
In a game that was mainly dominated by of defense and special teams, the W&M offense had an off night. Coming into the game, Norfolk State was known for having a stout defense, and they certainly did impress. The Tribe’s offense never seemed to consistently and efficiently get going, racking up just 234 yards of total offense. In comparison, the Tribe garnered 351 yards of total offense against Hampton a week ago. In this week’s matchup, the Tribe running game didn’t take over (gaining just 68 total yards), and the passing game didn’t do enough to blow out the Spartans.
However, there were some bright spots on offense. Senior wideout Tre McBride returned from the injury he sustained in the season opener at Virginia Tech, and looked very good. Steve Cluley connected with McBride on a 55 yard bomb early in the game, which ended up being the offense’s only touchdown (and Cluley’s first TD toss of the season). McBride gained 98 yards receiving in the first half, and finished with 6 receptions for 101 yards in the game.
Quarterback Steve Cluley went 12 for 27 (44.4%) with 166 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. A couple long passes to both Tre McBride and Kendell Anderson added to Cluley’s yardage total, but it would be great to see the Tribe passing game clicking each and every quarter. The Tribe’s offense was inefficient in the second half, and were often forced to punt the ball.
One thing that surprised us was the limited use of freshman DeVonte Dedmon, who had only one rush for zero yards. After an explosive game last week in which he gained over 80 yards of total offense, we wonder why he had a minimal role against Norfolk State. Look for that to change next week against Lafayette.
Another thing of note was W&M’s utilization of tight ends in the passing game, as Eric Hensley and Andrew Caskin were consistently running routes, each hauling in a pass. We would like to see these tight ends catch more balls, but we understand that the loss of senior captain Bo Revell is a tough pill to swallow, and the younger tight ends will need some time to grow and adjust in the system.
In short, the offense has one more game to fine tune next week against Lafayette before CAA play begins against Stony Brook in the Tribe’s 5th week of the season. The run game seems up to par (minus this week’s shaky outing), but the passing game has yet to prove it can get it done each game. We have no doubt that Cluley and the boys can air it out, and a good game next week should prove it.
While the Tribe offense may need one more week to get ready for CAA play, that certainly is not the case for the defense. After a Cluley interception, Norfolk State took their opening drive 60 yards in a little over 2 minutes for a score. But after that drive, the defense tightened up for the rest of the game.
The Tribe defense did a little bit of everything on Saturday, creating 2 interceptions, one for a touchdown, 4 sacks, a safety, and a forced fumble. Senior Jared Velasquez returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown toward the end of the first quarter, giving William & Mary the first lead of the game. The other interception came from DeAndre Houston-Carson.
The team’s 4 sacks seemed to get to the opposing team’s true freshman quarterback, as he threw no touchdowns and two interceptions. Overall, the defense directly put 8 points on the board and played a solid game throughout.
To say the least, special teams had a significant impact on this game. Ivan Tagoe returned a blocked field goal 66 yards in the fourth quarter to put William and Mary up 29-7, effectively sealing the deal for the Tribe. Hunter Windmuller punted well again, especially considering the rainy and windy weather conditions, even pinning a punt inside the five-yard line.
And of course, senior John Carpenter did what he does best, making field goals, going 2/2 on the night and converting all 3 PATs. This special teams unit seems to turn in plays every week, and we hope this continues on Saturday and into the heart of the season.
Great news here, as senior Tre McBride returned to the offense, and certainly didn’t go unnoticed. Tre hobbled off the field right before the half after a hit, but returned very soon after and played the rest of the game. Great news for the Tribe. No new injuries to report.
Around the CAA
James Madison’s Vad Lee shined in a win over St. Francis, Maine wasn’t able to hold on against Bryant, and Towson got their first win of the season. The Tribe’s first CAA opponent, Stony Brook, defeated American International by 17 points.
All things considered, the Tribe is 2-1, with the team’s only loss coming in a game at Virginia Tech. A couple good tests in Hampton and Norfolk State have shown where the Tribe can improve. If the team can get things going on offense and perfect the balancing act of pass vs. run, William & Mary will be a hard team to beat this year. GO TRIBE!!!