Homecoming proved to be the spark that this William & Mary offense desperately needed, but the Tribe came up just short of a victory over #5 ranked Villanova on Saturday. There was a lot to like, but Villanova QB John Robertson proved too much to handle in the end. Still, it was a great overall showing by the team in front of a packed Zable Stadium, and the team has a lot to build off of going into next week’s game.
Offense: This may just have been Tribe QB Steve Cluley’s coming out game. Cluley passed for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns. Even better, two of his touchdown passes were to star wide receiver Tre McBride— the longest TD reception of the two going for 56 yards. Cluley also garnered a 66 percent completion percentage and threw zero interceptions. He was poised from the start, and this was by far his best game of the season. We are very excited to see what Cluley will accomplish the rest of the season, and hope he builds off of this game in the weeks to come.
While Cluley’s game was impressive, the player of the game for the Tribe may have been senior WR Tre McBride. Tre had arguably the best game of his career, grabbing 11 catches for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns against a top 5 opponent in Villanova. He was unstoppable, and seemed to be open on every single play. He had touchdown catches of 35 and 56 yards, proving why he garnered a preseason first team all-CAA selection.
Starting running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor had a solid outing, running for 83 yards, but the bright stop in the running game was Kendell Anderson. Anderson finished with 75 yards on just 8 carries (9.3 yards per carry), including a touchdown. He broke off a big 42 yard run on the last drive before the half, which would eventually lead to a Tribe touchdown on Anderson’s two yard touchdown plunge.
Overall, the Tribe out gained the Villanova offense in total yards 518-444. Considering that Villanova is known for its powerful offense that averages close to 40 points per game and is ranked among the top in the FCS, this is a stat to seriously be excited about. Going into the thick of the CAA schedule, it seems that the Tribe offense has finally found its rhythm, and they will need it against this season’s tough CAA slate.
Defense: As mentioned in our preview article, we felt that the defense needed to contain star Villanova QB John Robertson, and knock him off his game by getting pressure and big time sacks. This is exactly what the Tribe did. While William & Mary didn’t force any turnovers, the defense finished with 6 sacks, and consistently pressured Robertson. They forced Villanova to just 14 first half points, a big accomplishment considering Villanova averaged close to 40 points per game coming into the contest.
It is never an easy task asking to stop someone as good as Robertson. He actually ended up finishing the game with 267 yards passing with 2 touchdowns, and 63 yards rushing for 2 touchdowns. But the defense played admirably, especially after last weekend’s tough loss at New Hampshire. Tribe junior cornerback Deandre Houston-Carson finished with 10 tackles and senior defensive end Mike Reilly finished with a sack. Adding to the sack totals, both Isaiah Stephens and Peyton Gryder finished with 1.5 sacks–marking huge strides for this year’s offensive line.
In the end, the defense fell one defensive stop short of ensuring a W&M victory. In the final minutes, Robertson and the Wildcats were able to drive down the field and convert on what would become the game-winning touchdown. Even still, the Tribe defense put in a great effort, and has now faced the two best offenses on this season’s schedule (though JMU and Richmond won’t be easy). There are several things the unit did well in this game that they will have to build on throughout this season.
Special Teams: Tribe Senior placekicker John Carpenter converted his only field goal of the day, a 26 yarder that went right through the uprights. Punter Hunter Windmuller had 4 punts that traveled 153 yards, including a 56 yard boot. Windmuller looks back to form after sustaining a shoulder injury earlier this season.
Around the CAA: It was mostly a boring and predictable week matchup-wise in the CAA outside of the W&M vs. Villanova game. The only result that may be surprising is Towson’s win over Delaware; the Tribe will face both teams in the coming weeks.
Conclusion: While the Tribe did end up losing to Villanova, there were a lot of bright spots. Villanova was ranked number 5 in the country going into the game, and William and Mary hung with them all the way to the end. The biggest bright spot was the offense, where Cluley seems to have had his break out game, and Tre McBride may have had the best game of his career. If the offense can keep the it up, pressure will be taken off the defense, and the sky is the limit. The Tribe has to build off of this weekend’s game and get back in the winning column against Delaware at home this week.
By the way…how AWESOME was the Tribe’s green on green uniform combination? We’d like to see that combo stay for a long time. GO TRIBE!!!