Recap: #24 William & Mary @ Towson

via espn.com
via espn.com

William & Mary ran all over Towson in this one and came away with a convincing 37-14 win on the road. We would venture to say that this was the second best offensive showing for the Tribe all season–the other being the offense’s solid performance in an earlier loss to Villanova. This week’s victory may go a long way for the Tribe in what is now the team’s final push to the FCS playoffs. This was also Head coach Jimmye Laycock’s 400th career game, and he picked up his 100th CAA win with the victory.

Offense: On the opening drive, William & Mary drove down the field on 4 plays, went 67 yards, and scored in 1 minute and 41 seconds. The touchdown came on a Steve Cluley pass to Tre McBride that went for 27 yards and the score. The green and gold came out firing, repeatedly connecting on passes through the air on the drive.

On their second drive of the game, the Tribe marched down the field on a 7 play 54 yard drive, which ended with a 17 yard Mikal Abdul-Saboor touchdown run. At the end of the first quarter alone, the Tribe led Towson by a staggering 21-0 margin. Abdul-Saboor was the player of the game for this unit throughout the contest, as he carried the ball 23 times for an eye-popping 141 yards (6.1 yards per carry), and 3 touchdowns on the ground. It’s safe to say, Abdul-Saboor will maintain his title as the CAA’s leading rusher for the foreseeable future, as he now has 1,161 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. In addition, Sophomore running back Kendell Anderson complimented Abdul-Saboor well in this one, as he also finished with an impressive stat line, gaining 54 yards on just 10 carries.

Because the run game experienced great success early, the passing game wasn’t asked to do much. Steve Cluley finished the game with 10 completions on 16 attempts for 104 yards and one touchdown. Cluley was tasked with the game manager role, especially in the second half, as the Tribe run game was able to repeatedly gash the Tigers’ porous defensive line. But speaking of the passing game, it was an awesome surprise to see senior captain/tight end Bo Revell return to the lineup. As most know, Revell was injured in the season opener against Virginia Tech, and has not played since. Revell played the majority of snaps against Towson, blocked very well for Abdul-Saboor, and finished with one reception for 23 yards. Go Bo!

In the third and fourth quarters, the Tribe offense slowed down a bit. With a 28-7 lead at the half, the team elected to run a more conservative, and an almost entirely run-based offense. After the half, Towson was able to adjust and slow down W&M’s run game somewhat successfully. Another big reason for the Tribe offense’s slowing down in the second half was the rash of injuries sustained on the offensive line. Unfortunately, William & Mary would not escape the second half without any serious injuries to its offense line. Center Andrew Jones suffered an injury and was replaced by sophomore Kevin Jennings. And before the end of the third quarter, right tackle Jerry Ugokwe suffered an apparent ankle injury, and was replaced by junior Zach Mahfood.

These losses could prove deadly for this Tribe team down the stretch. Before the injuries, W&M’s line was opening up holes left and right, and Abdul-Saboor was taking full advantage. Because the William & Mary offense is based off of a run-first, ground and pound run game, cohesion along the offensive line is absolutely paramount. Speaking after the game on CSN, Coach Laycock stated that the team is down to all of its second stringers on the offensive line. It will be interesting to see how William & Mary adjusts on the line next week against Richmond, especially as the Tribe looks to continue its success on the ground.

Defense: Coming into the game, we knew that Towson boasted one of the top rushers in the CAA in Darius Victor. With an underwhelming passing game, the Tigers were expected to run the ball early and often in this one–and that’s exactly what happened. However, Victor and the Tigers offense got off to a slow start, as William & Mary jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead.

The defense was able to force three Towson punts to start the game. It wasn’t until early in the second quarter that the Tigers could get anything going, when they capped off a long, sustained drive with a 4 yard Darius Victor touchdown run. Victor would eventually come alive for Towson in this game, as he finished with 22 carries for 136 yards (6.2 yards per carry), and one touchdown on the day.

Even with Towson’s success on the ground, the Tribe were able to force 3 total turnovers. William & Mary forced two fumbles, including one in the red zone during the third quarter. Cornerback Trey Reed forced a fumble in the first quarter, and the second fumble was forced by safety/linebacker Keanu Reuben in the third quarter. Cornerback Aaron Swinton chimed in to the turnover party with one interception in the fourth quarter–effectively putting the game far out of reach for the Tigers. Towson’s quarterback, Connor Frazier was held to 160 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception on the night. Senior defensive end Mike Reilly added another sack to his resume, bringing his season total up to 11 total sacks on the season.

Overall, this was a solid showing for the Tribe defense. Even while electing to run a more conservative game plan in the second half, the team was still able to force turnovers, and get the ball back into the offense’s hands. This was especially important when the defensive unit forced a fumble and recovered it in the red zone in the third quarter. And although Darius Victor was able to have some success on the ground, he is a great talent, and is likely the best running back the Tribe has seen all season. In the end, Towson was held to a mere 14 total points, as the Tigers were shut out in both the 1st and 3rd quarters.

Special Teams: Senior John Carpenter, in his second game back from surgery, connected on field goals of 43 yards, 24 yards, and 25 yards–all coming in second half. However, Carpenter did kick the ball out of bounds on a late fourth quarter kickoff, resulting in a penalty–showing that he still has some rust to shake off post-surgery.

True freshman DeVonte Dedmon looked solid again in the return game, as he averaged 27.5 yards per return on two returns. On the flip side, William & Mary’s coverage team had a hard time containing one of the CAA’s leading return-men in Towson’s Derrick Joseph. Joseph finished the game with 6 returns and 175 yards (29.2 yard per return). Coming into the game, Joseph was 4th in the CAA in punt return average–but played like has was #1 in the CAA. However, the Tribe didn’t allow him to return one too far, as his longest return went for 37 yards. Additionally on special teams, William & Mary’s redshirt freshman Richie DiPietro forced a fumble on in the third quarter on a return, which was recovered by the Tribe–marking the third out of four turnovers for the green and gold in the game.

Tribe Injury Update: As mentioned, Senior captain Bo Revell surprised everyone and returned to the field–playing in his first game since the season opener at Virginia Tech. Center Andrew Jones suffered an injury, and was replaced by Andrew Jennings. Cornerback DeAndre Houston-Carson remained out, and was filled in for by Aaron Swinton, who finished with one interception in the game. Right tackle Jerry Ugokwe left the contest on a cart in the 3rd quarter, and was seen walking around on crutches with a boot on his ankle after the game. Ugokwe was replaced by Junior Zach Mahfood.

Around the CAA: It was an eventful day in the CAA. JMU shocked the FCS by handily beating a ranked Richmond team 55-20. This likely punched JMU’s ticket to this year’s FCS playoffs. New Hampshire took care of business against Delaware, and further cemented their title as the “best team” in the CAA; meanwhile, Villanova beat Albany, as QB John Robertson notched 5 total touchdowns.

via caasports.com
via caasports.com

Conclusion: It was a great win for the Tribe that carried some serious playoff implications. Next week’s matchup against the arch-rival Richmond Spiders looks like it may shape up to be just like last year, with the loser going home, and the winner making the playoffs! The Tribe stayed alive in the playoff race with this big win over Towson, undoubtedly gained some respect in the eyes of the FCS playoff committee, and set up a huge matchup this weekend at Zable Stadium. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

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