This is not going to be an easy one to forget. After rising 5 spots a week ago to #8 in the country, while riding a 7-game home winning streak, the Tribe fell to the lowly Elon Phoenix, 27-10. Below is our the good, the bad, and the ugly from this week’s game.
- DeVonte Dedmon: One of the few positives we found in this one was the play of junior WR DeVonte Dedmon. Dedmon has been something special this year. He always seems to be open. In the Elon game, he turned what would have been a 10-yard slant into a 77-yard touchdown pass–with at least 60+ yards after the catch. He used his incredible speed to burn past his corner, as both safeties were also left in the dust. W&M needs to get DeVonte the ball more, as he makes big plays every week.
- The W&M Defense: The William and Mary defense actually held the Elon Phoenix to just 96 yards passing and 140 yards on the ground. Which makes it all the more unbelievable that the Green and Gold lost this game. A contest in which the W&M defense gives up a mere 236 yards typically results in a win for the Tribe. Of course, this was not the case on Saturday. The defense put up these numbers despite being put in difficult situations from the start: W&M’s opening punt was blocked, and recovered by Elon inside the 10 yard line. That trend continued later on in the game, as the Tribe’s punter Hunter Windmuller fumbled a poor snap, which led to an Elon recovery on the 4 yard line. While the Phoenix put 27 points on the board, they really didn’t do it all by themselves. Several miscues by W&M, including several on offense, seemingly handed Elon the game on a silver platter. In a surprising and unexpected turn of events, the William and Mary offense has so far been the problem with this team, not the defense. Far from the great offense we boasted about just one month ago.
- The Tribe Offense: Logically, we start with the offense! What is going on with this unit? Nothing seems to be clicking. We understand that it takes some time for an offense to gel, but after a full offseason, and 3 games under their belts, we would have hoped that this unit would put up 30-40 points on a so-so Elon squad this past Saturday. Let’s also not forget that the offense is led by a veteran senior in 3-year starter Steve Cluley. On the ground, W&M rushed for just 104 yards on 33 attempts, a meager 3.2 yards per carry average. One of our keys to the game was a strong run game that would open up the pass. Obviously, that was happening here. With powerful offenses throughout the CAA, William and Mary will need to find out ways to put up points, and in a hurry, or it’s going to be a long season for the William and Mary faithful. Cluley also threw 3 interceptions, and looked completely lost at times. He has not looked like a 3-year starter and senior QB so far this year. We need much more out of our captain.
- Injuries to Windmuller and Funderburke: Punter Hunter Windmuller was injured again in this one. After a low snap prevented Windmuller from getting off a punt, he took a brutal hit from two Elon defenders. With Windmuller sidelined, the Tribe went to place kicker Nick Dorka in the punting game. However, after Dorka sailed two punts into the endzone, the Tribe turned to kicker Kris Hooper for the final punt of the game. Field position is key in every game, and we hope that Windmuller will be back soon. On offense, redshirt freshman RB Albert Funderburke, one of the lone bright spots on this years Tribe offense, appeared to go down with a serious injury. He came limping off the field on one leg, and did not return to the game. While we don’t yet know the extent of this injury, this is a huge blow to a Tribe offense that needs the spark that Funderburke has provided. In his stead, pre-season First Team All-CAA selection and senior RB Kendell Anderson returned from injury in a valiant fashion, finishing with 9 carries for 46 yards (5.1 yards per carry). The Tribe seemed to be resting Kendell before “serious” CAA play vs. New Hampshire next week. With the score being what it was, and with Funderburke being down, Coach Laycock had no choice but bring Kendell in a little sooner than expected. The Tribe will lean on him from here on out, especially as QB Steve Cluley recovers from a poor start to the season.
William and Mary lost its first CAA game of the year. This is a William and Mary team that lost its first home game since November 22nd, 2014. What is worse, they were dominated in all three aspects of the game by a team who has consistently ranked in the bottom of the CAA. Most of this is due to the fact that Elon joined the league not long ago, but no excuses for the Tribe. In a league where every game matters, the Green and Gold did not come ready to play. It definitely seemed like the team was overlooking a weaker opponent. While the Delaware loss last year stung, at least it was lost on a last second field goal on the road. For those of us making the trip for Family Weekend, it was an incredibly disappointing showing, to say the least.
Perhaps this is will be the wake-up call the team seems to so desperately need, but even still, this squad has a lot of work to do. Going into one of the hardest segments of the schedule, William and Mary will travel to UNH next week, and JMU the next. Initially, we were hoping for a split of these games (assuming we would be 3-1 at this point). However, with this loss to Elon, William and Mary really needs to go 2-0 to get back on the right track and keep its playoff aspirations alive. These next two games will say a lot about how tough this Tribe team truly is, and we are interested to see how they respond to the stark adversity.
We still believe in this team, undoubtedly. This squad has more than enough tools on offense to get back on track. The defense has also been surprisingly good, with young studs stepping up all over the field. As Kendell Anderson returns to the fold, W&M’s offense may need to go through him from here on out to be successful. And that’s not a bad thing. But to succeed in the long run, strong play from the QB position is required. Cluley will need to step up his play if W&M is to survive in the CAA this year.
Around the CAA
It was a good week for away teams, as JMU, UNH, and Elon all picked up CAA victories over Maine, Rhode Island, and the Tribe, respectively. Richmond pulled out a close one over Colgate, and Albany improved to a strong 4-0 after their win against St. Francis at home.
Thankfully it is still EARLY. However, losing the first CAA game is never a good omen. Last week’s loss will sting down the stretch, especially come playoff selections, but there is nothing the team can do now but focus on UNH. The best remedy is to put this game behind, come out hard against the Wildcats, and get that huge first CAA win.
Stats FCS Top 25 Poll
After the loss, William and Mary fell 11 spots to #19 in the country. This was expected, and the positive is that the Tribe is still ranked in the national top 25. If W&M can muster a couple road wins over UNH and JMU in back-to-back weeks, we feel that this team can make it back into the top 10. Roll Tribe.
William and Mary travels to UNH this weekend to face the Wildcats. UNH is always a tough team to beat at home, and in general. They have a knack for success and typically make the FCS Playoffs each year. Last time the Tribe played at UNH, it lost badly, 35-3. Granted, that was against a much better UNH team than the one the team will be playing this weekend. But they’ll be no pushover. Be on the lookout for our preview article in the next couple days. We believe that this Tribe team will be ready to go and hungry for their first CAA win after last week. We believe. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!