Ouch. The Tribe drops to 4-2 (1-1 CAA) after a 32-3 trouncing at the hands of the New Hampshire Wildcats. For the third straight week, the Tribe found themselves down at the half. It proved to be one slow start too many, especially on the offensive side of the ball, as New Hampshire was too much to overcome in the second half. In short, this game was not pretty for W&M.
Offense: The Tribe offense was not able to get anything going in this game. Coming into the game, the Wildcats ranked 54th against the run, 88th against the pass, and 72nd in overall defense in the FCS– they also were giving up around 400 total yards and 28 points per game. But against the Tribe, they looked a lot better than their rankings suggested.
Running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor carried the ball 12 times for 52 yards (4.3 avg) and no scores. Quarterback Steve Cluley threw for 105 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. No receiver gained more than 28 yards through the air.
Basically, this was the absolutely lowest the offense has played the entire season. Nothing clicked. No big plays, both on the ground and in the air. The Tribe offense simply could not keep up with New Hampshire.
A glaring problem for the Tribe offense, especially in the first half, was an unwillingness to throw the ball more than 5 yards down the field. This has been one of Cluley’s strong suits during the season: being able to push the ball downfield and catch the defense off guard. But in this game, the Tribe offense sputtered; Cluley’s attempts rarely passed the first down marker, and no completions went for many yards– this was directly reflected in the wide receivers’ stat lines for the game. We’re not sure if this were a result of conservative play-calling, Cluley’s decision making, or UNH’s defensive gameplan (it was likely a mix of all three), but the team’s lack of a mid-range passing game was apparent in this contest.
And for the ground game, it wasn’t too surprising that Abdul-Saboor wasn’t able to get into much of a rhythm, as the team was down the majority of the time and needed to get points in a hurry. However, it was a little surprising that the Tribe was not able to effectively run against a unit that ranked just 54th in the nation against the run.
Abdul-Saboor actually finished tied for the most receiving yards on the team, as he was used a lot in passing formations; even still, he finished with a lowly 28 receiving yards. The only positive we can take from this matchup is that it cannot get much worse for the offense. This is as low as it gets, just 3 points in four quarters against an average defense. This type of production absolutely cannot continue if the Tribe wishes to compete in the CAA and make the playoffs this season.
Defense: Defensively, the Tribe found themselves in a hole quickly. Offensively, the Wildcats came into the game ranked 7th in the nation in pass offense and 11th overall in total offense. New Hampshire’s star senior wide receiver R.J. Harris established himself early and often in this one, finishing with 5 receptions, 105 yards, and 1 touchdown–he also added a two point conversion after the first touchdown of the game.
The Tribe defense allowed 15 points in the first half; the unit then allowed 17 points in the second half to close out the game. New Hampshire quarterback Andy Vailas looked comfortable in the pocket, and was able to push throws downfield throughout the entire game. New Hampshire scored on long, sustained drives, but also on short, quick-strike drives. Vailas connected on one 25-yard throw, and then on two throws from less than 2 yards out–signifying just how well they were able to move the ball deep inside Tribe territory.
Vailas would finish the game with 276 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Senior linebacker Airek Green returned to this game after coming off a toe injury, and was able to haul in yet another interception for the Tribe. Green really has been a bright spot on defense, and continues to rack up turnovers when on the field. DeAndre Houston-Carson was able to add another interception, but both of the team’s interceptions were in vain as the Tribe offense was not able to stand toe to toe with UNH in this CAA battle. Junior captain Luke Rhodes also added 11 tackles for W&M, the most on the day.
But what may have been the most disappointing stat line for the Tribe defense, was that the team finished the game with 0 sacks. UNH was able to execute their offense efficiently, without W&M’s defensive line wreaking any havoc. Watching the Tribe offense fail drive after drive must have been hard for the defense, but the Tribe did not play up to par. If this team wants to make the playoffs, it will have to adjust on both sides of the ball.
Special Teams: W&M punter Hunter Windmuller also returned in this game, coming off of a shoulder injury. Toward the end of the first quarter, he saw one of his punts get blocked, which then set UNH on a scoring drive. Overall, Windmuller was much too busy in this one, punting the ball a staggering seven times, as the Tribe offense dwindled. Senior John Carpenter connected on a 22 yard field goal before the half, providing the Tribe with their only points of the game.
Around the CAA: James Madison absolutely obliterated Towson, putting up 62 points–it seems Vad Lee may really be heating up. Richmond was able to cruise by a tough Albany team. And next week’s opponent, Villanova, put up 44 points against Rhode Island.
Conclusion: The Tribe didn’t get it done in this one. The loss drops the team to the middle of the pack in the CAA; the result sets up a crucial game next week against another top-5 ranked team for W&M’s Homecoming versus Villanova. Either way, plan to get up, get out, and support your Tribe this coming Saturday. Let’s put this game behind us, it’s time to focus on Villanova–LET’S GO TRIBE!!!