Preview: #24 William & Mary vs. Elon

via espn.com
via espn.com

Following last week’s disappointing loss to JMU, the Tribe will look to capitalize against a weaker Elon team. This is Elon’s first year in the Colonial, and the Phoenix are hungry for their first-ever CAA win. William & Mary will need to right the ship and get back on track this weekend at Zable Stadium.

Last Meeting with the Tribe: As this is the first year that Elon has joined the CAA, they have not previously played William and Mary. William & Mary’s football program began in 1893 and Elon’s football program began shortly after in 1909–it’s somewhat surprising the two have never met on the gridiron before, but better late than never!

Elon this Year: At this point in the season, Elon finds itself at 1-8 in a very tough CAA. The Phoenix is still trying to adjust as they play top tier FCS competition week in and week out. We all know the CAA is not forgiving; with that being said, Elon has had a tough go of their schedule. Three of the eight teams they have played are ranked in the FCS, and another one of their opponents was Duke.  Elon’s lone win this season came against UNC-Charlotte in week 3, when the Phoenix pulled out a 20-13 win at home.

CAA Total Offense Rankings via thesportsnetwork.com
CAA Total Offense Rankings via thesportsnetwork.com

Offensively, Elon ranks 46th in the nation in pass offense, averaging 226 yards in the air per game. The Phoenix rank 118th in rush offense– only averaging a meager 81.1 rushing yards a game. Therefore, at first glance, it seems that Elon is more focused on the passing game than the running game. But this is likely because Elon has found themselves behind on the scoreboard in most games, causing them to throw the ball more in order to score points quickly. In terms of total offense, both William & Mary and Elon have similar totals–the fact that W&M’s offensive statistics are so close to a lowly Elon’s offensive stats speaks to the fact that the Tribe offense has underperformed so far this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Elon is ranked 67th against the pass and 90th against the run in the nation. For comparison, William and Mary’s defense ranks 42nd against the rush and 103rd against the pass. While one could say that William and Mary’s schedule has been tougher than Elon’s, Elon has also had a tough schedule.

In terms of Total Defense, the Phoenix are ranked 81st in the country, and William and Mary is ranked just above them, at 73. Statistics are not a be all end all, but it was every interesting for us to see how similarly ranked these two teams are on the offensive and defensive side of the ball–especially when Elon is viewed as one of the lowest team’s in the CAA and W&M is still nationally ranked!

CAA Total Defense Rankings via thesportsnetwork.com
CAA Total Defense Rankings via thesportsnetwork.com

But where William and Mary has a big edge is in turnovers and special teams. The Tribe has a .89 turnover ratio, good for 10th in the country, while Elon has just a .11 turnover ratio. As far as special teams, William and Mary leads the nation in blocked kicks with 9, including two in last week’s game against JMU. The Tribe averages one blocked kick a game, and this could play a factor in Saturday’s game against Elon.

Elon’s Players to Watch:

Elon WR Kierre Brown (AP Photo/Burlington Times-News, Scott Muthersbaugh)
Elon WR Kierre Brown (AP Photo/Burlington Times-News, Scott Muthersbaugh)

Offensively, the Phoenix are led by their senior quarterback, #7 Mike Quinn. Quinn has 1921 yards passing this season with 7 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Quinn has had a couple of impressive outings this year, going for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns against Delaware, and 184 yards with 2 touchdowns last week against Towson. The defense will need to keep getting pressure and force Quinn out of his comfort zone.

Quinn’s top target is #32 Kierre Brown. Through 9 games, Brown has 551 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns.  Brown is also dangerous in the return game, as he was named second team all conference return specialist by both the media and the coaches last year, when Elon was in the Southern Conference.

Defensively, the Phoenix are led by a pair of linebackers: #52 Jonathan Spain and #50 John Silas. Spain has 87 tackles through just 9 games, while Silas has 73 tackles and a sack. Together, the two linebackers have combined for 160 tackles through 9 games, making them both tackling machines. These two linebackers will be all over the field Saturday against W&M, trying to hit the gaps and slow down the powerful Tribe rushing attack.

On the defensive line, Elon’s #42 Robert Davis figures to play a role. He leads the team in sacks with 3.5, and also has 7 tackles for loss. He is an imposing force on the defensive line and will look to stuff the run on Saturday with linebackers Spain and Silas. Finally, in the secondary, Elon is led by #30 Julius Moore. Moore leads the team with 3 interceptions this year, and has also added 51 tackles

Tribe Keys to Victory:

  • Stop the run early. Make Quinn throw the ball the whole game, and don’t allow this average run game to help out their QB.
  • Get the offense going. The Tribe severely underperformed last week against JMU, and need to get Cluley back on track. His maturation in the system will be absolutely vital down the stretch and into the offseason.
  • Keep the turnovers coming. Punt blocks, kick blocks, interceptions, strip sacks, you name it. Let’s keep at this record pace.

 Tribe Injury Update: Freshman wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon left last week’s game with an injury and was not seen for almost the entire second half. No word on his injury. Early reports indicate that senior placekicker John Carpenter may be out for the season after a bone marrow transplant that may assist in saving a life–which is an incredible story you should check out if you haven’t already. Nick Dorka will have to be the next man up, as he has been the last two weeks. Dorka may also need to step in again for punter Hunter Windmuller, who may or may not play this week. 

Viewing: This game can be viewed on Comcast Sports Net (CSN) and on the Tribe’s live stream service here

Prediction: William & Mary 38 Elon 17
William & Mary should be able to right the ship and dominate Elon throughout in this contest–if the Tribe are not able to handily beat the Phoenix, it will be very concerning. We’d love to see Cluley and McBride have another big game, like they did against Villanova. And we fully expect the defense to step up after last week’s poor 4th quarter showing against JMU. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!
Check out the official game notes here!

 

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