Following what may become a season-saving victory over Villanova last week, William and Mary will finally enjoy a nice, long string of home games. The Tribe will begin by taking on a high-powered New Hampshire team this Saturday, and will need to follow up last week’s performance with a similar showing.
Last Meeting with the Tribe: UNH flexed its offensive muscle last season, lighting up the Tribe defense for 32 points. The Wildcats’ quarterback Andy Vailas threw for 276 yards and three scores on the day, and receiver R.J. Harris burned William and Mary with five catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Tribe was able to force two interceptions; however, the unit failed to keep the fast-paced UNH offense at bay. The W&M offense also struggled mightily, and couldn’t even score one TD against the Wildcats; the unit failed to score at all in the second half and looked bad. This was an incredibly tough game to watch, as a lot of Tribe fans probably turned the TV off at halftime. The game ended 32-3, as UNH absolutely trounced W&M.
New Hampshire this year: The Wildcats are certainly in the middle of a rebuilding year, especially by their high standards and past success in the CAA. New Hampshire sits at a modest 3-2, though they are riding a two game win streak in which they’ve averaged an eye-popping 47 points per game. These wins came courtesy of a 57-14 thrashing of Central Connecticut State and an in-conference 37-14 pounding of Elon. It’s safe to say their offense is currently red hot.
Wildcats’ Players to Watch: Junior quarterback Adam Riese has had some fine performances of late, most recently breaking down the Elon defense for 37 points. However, UNH’s “real” starter and incumbent at the position, Sean Goldrich, has been out with injury and is expected back this week. Goldrich is a 4-year starter and redshirt senior who passed for 2,391 yards and 16 TDs last season. He led last year’s offense (when he wasn’t injured), that ranked 3rd in the CAA in scoring, averaging a staggering 36.2 points per game. That’s not good news for Tribe fans, who will have to hope he’s rusty in his return from injury.
Joining Goldrich is running back Dalton Crossan, who accounted for 24 points against Elon last week; he has been the workhorse for the Wildcats throughout the young season. However, even with strong performances over the last two weeks, the UNH offense isn’t as strong as it was in years’ past.
In the CAA, the Wildcats rank just 7th overall in scoring offense, averaging 21.5 points a game. For comparison, W&M averages 27.3 points per game, good enough for 4th in the conference. Even still, the Wildcats’ offensive system is one that can wreak havoc on any given week and should not be underestimated–especially with this week’s addition of Goldrich back into the lineup. Just ask Elon and Central Connecticut State.
Defensively, UNH linebackers Akil Anderson and Ryan Farrell have played well for the Wildcats. Each recorded interceptions last week against Elon, and will be matched up with the running backs and tight ends in the passing game. Tribe QB Steve Cluely will need to target his outside guys early and often, and rely on the backs in the run game.
In terms of overall defensive statistics, UNH ranks #5 in the CAA in scoring defense, as opponents average 22.5 points per game against them. Alternatively, W&M leads the entire conference in scoring defense, with opponents averaging a paltry 13.3 points per game. This may certainly play a big part in this week’s matchup, as both defenses will look to dominate early and often in this one.
Tribe Keys to victory:
- Keep the Ball: The best way to beat a potent offense is to keep the ball out of their hands. By taking time off the clock, converting third downs, and staying on schedule with the chains, the Tribe’s offense can minimize the Wildcats’ time of possession. The more they do this, the fresher the defense will be against the New Hampshire attack.
- Run Efficiently and Effectively: The offensive line will need to provide strong run blocking for Mikal Abdul-Saboor and Kendell Anderson to find running lanes. If both can average around 4-5 yards a carry, William and Mary should be able to eat up yardage, convert first downs, and dominate time of possession.
- Convert in the Red Zone: The other key to beating an offensive team is to capitalize on opportunities. The more the Tribe settles for field goals, the more it lends itself to falling behind the streaking Wildcats. Anderson and Abdul-Saboor should get plenty of touches inside the 20 yard line.
Viewing: Saturday, 12 PM on CSN
Prediction: Tribe 27, New Hampshire 20
William and Mary will limit the defense’s exposure to the Wildcat offense by having a strong performance on the ground. The time of possession stat may well determine the outcome of this game. If New Hampshire takes an early lead, this game could get ugly very quickly, so its important the Tribe score first and gain some confidence offensively.
Check out the Official Game Notes here!