Preview: #19 William & Mary @ New Hampshire

unh-vs-wm-2016
In UNH’s Home Opener on September 18 vs. Holy Cross, in what was its first game in the newly renovated Wildcat Stadium, a 13,242 attendance was announced, marking the largest non-homecoming crowd at a UNH home game since 1977.

Following last week’s tough loss to Elon, William & Mary will look to turn the page against a long-time CAA foe, the New Hampshire Wildcats. The W&M offense will need to overcome an ACL injury to former starting running back Albert Funderburke, which will now sideline him for the year. But have no fear, The Tribe might have just the perfect replacement for him moving forward. We think you’ll remember him from last season (Hint: Ken “Crim Dell” Anderson). Other headlines for the game include the struggling W&M offense, and the fact that this will be the first in-conference road game for the Tribe this year.

Despite the poor showing last week, W&M has actually experienced solid play from its defense. Freshmen at all stages of the defensive unit have stepped up this season: DT Bill Murray (13 tackles, 2 sacks), S Corey Parker (3rd on the team in total tackles with 25, and leads team in INTs with 2), and LB Nate Atkins (2nd on the team in total tackles with 31), to name just a few of the young guns that have played anything like first-year starters. And there are more, plenty more. All of this makes us conclude that the W&M defense might be very good in the coming years, as we are just now witnessing the maturation of a unit that could be deadly in the near future, if not this year.

This week, the Tribe makes the long road trip to UNH’s Wildcat Stadium, which like the Tribe’s Zable Stadium, has been completely renovated. And let’s not fail to mention that this Saturday is UNH’s Homecoming, so the stadium is sure to be extra rowdy on Saturday. The Wildcats have traditionally been a CAA power, having qualified for the FCS Playoffs every year from 2004-2015–the last 12 years, including a 7-4 finish and playoff berth last year. And although they endured a first round exit in last year’s playoffs, UNH is hungry to get back on track. W&M will have its hands full, especially after last week’s disappointing finish. The Green and Gold will get no sympathy from the Wildcats, as W&M looks to right its course in league play.

Last season, the Tribe defeated a strong UNH team in Williamsburg. [photo: unhathletics.com]
Last season, the Tribe defeated a strong UNH team in Williamsburg, 34-18. This photo hearkens back to the last time W&M played at New Hampshire in 2014, when W&M was blown out 32-3. [photo: unhwildcats.com]

Last Meeting with the Tribe

Last season, the #24 William & Mary Tribe faced off with the #19 New Hampshire Wildcats in the friendly confines of Zable Stadium. It was a midseason battle of two CAA heavyweights vying for position in the FCS rankings. And boy did the Tribe impress. Junior running back Kendell Anderson rushed for an insane 174 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 touches, including a 69-yard dash to the endzone. Junior QB Steve Cluley also lit up the scoreboard, finishing with 145 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 INT while adding 5 carries for 48 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Naturally, stud WR DeVonte Dedmon also got his, finishing with 6 receptions for 48 yards and 1 TD.

The Tribe was truly clicking on all cylinders, and it started with a strong commitment to the run game that witnessed this year’s Preseason First-Team All-CAA selection Kendell Anderson finish with an eye-popping 27 carries. In total, the Tribe would rush the ball an incredible 49 times in last year’s game vs. UNH–something we think the Tribe should replicate this Saturday. The defense also held serve by forcing 2 interceptions, while allowing 0 passing touchdowns. The home field advantage was real in this one, as the Tribe walked away victorious, 34-18.

New Hampshire This Year

So far this season, the Wildcats have played San Diego State, Holy Cross, Dartmouth, and Rhode Island. It’s a pretty good mix of teams from across the spectrum, making it hard to judge just how good this year’s UNH team really is. Against these teams, UNH has gone 2-2, with wins over Holy Cross and Rhode Island, and losses to FBS San Diego State and Dartmouth. The win over Holy Cross is impressive, as the Crusaders were picked to finish 3rd in the Patriot league this season. The 22-21 loss to Dartmouth is somewhat of a head scratcher. Even though Dartmouth is also picked to finish 3rd this year, they play in the Ivy League: a league known much more for its SAT scores than FCS rankings.

UNH earned its first CAA victory last week in a 39-17 win over the Rhode Island Rams. The Wildcats accumulated 407 yards of total offense in the win. [photo: unhwildcats.com]
UNH earned its first CAA victory last week in a 39-17 win over the Rhode Island Rams. The Wildcats accumulated 407 yards of total offense in the win. [photo: unhwildcats.com]
This year, somewhat different from years’ past, the Wildcats prefer to run the ball. They currently rank #5 in the CAA (out of 12 teams) in rushing yards per game, averaging 189 yards. In terms of passing the ball, the Wildcats rank in the lower half at #8, averaging just 170.5 yards through the air per game. For comparison’s sake, W&M ranks #6 in rushing (148.8 yards per game) and #4 in passing offense (204.5 yards per game). Ultimately, both teams are very similarly ranked in terms of overall points per game, as New Hampshire averages 24.8 points per game, while W&M checks in at 20.8 points per game.

On the defensive side of the ball, W&M has the clear advantage. UNH ranks second-to-last in the CAA for Total Defense, as opponents currently average 447.2 total yards per game against them. Alternatively, W&M ranks in the top half of CAA defenses, at #4, as opponents average just 332 yards per game. That’s over a 100 yard difference between the two squids — and while both teams have played against different opponents this year, that matchup should work out in the Tribe’s favor come Saturday.

New Hampshire’s Players to Watch

RB Dalton Crossan is in the midst of a career year. W&M's linebackers will need to plug the holes and stop the run on Saturday. [photo: unhwildcats.com]
RB Dalton Crossan is in the midst of a career year. W&M’s linebackers will need to plug the holes and stop the run on Saturday. [photo: unhwildcats.com]
  1. #27 Dalton Crossan (RB, Senior, 5’11”, 204 lb): Remember how we mentioned that the UNH offense now goes through its run game? Dalton Crossan is the UNH run game. He is unquestionably the #1 back. So far this season, he has accumulated 388 yards and 2 TDs, averaging 92.25 rushing yards per game. He’s also #3 on the team in passing yards, with 17 receptions for 120 yards, averaging 30 receiving yards per game. Yes, he can truly do a little bit of everything, and as a senior, Crossan knows how to get it done in the CAA.He was a Third-Team All-CAA selection last year, who has his eyes set on a First-Team selection this year. Again, if you like to bet, you should bet that #27 touches the ball on the majority of UNH’s offensive snaps on Saturday.
    Linebacker DeVaughn Chollette is completely over last season's injury, having already totaled his 2015 stats through the first four games of 2016. [photo: goaztecs.com]
    Linebacker #56 DeVaughn Chollette is completely over last season’s injury, having already totaled his 2015 stat total through the first four games of 2016. [photo: goaztecs.com]
  2. #56 DeVaughn Chollette (LB, Senior, 6’0″, 238 lb): Another senior on this year’s Wildcats roster, Chollette has come on strong this season for UNH. After starting just 6 games a year ago due to a lingering arm injury, he finished with 27 tackles; Chollette has already surpassed those totals this season. Through just four games, he already has matched his 27 total tackles, including 9 tackles for a loss and a half sack. He clogs the holes and gets behind the line with big tackles for a loss. The W&M offensive line will need to keep an eye on #56 at all times, and he will need to have at least one body on him at all times to open up the run game for W&M RB’s Kendell Anderson and Jonathan Dunn.
    The only pictures we could find of UNH's QB Trevor Knight were of him running the ball...Get the hint? [photo: unhwildcats.com]
    The only pictures we could find of UNH’s QB Trevor Knight were of him running the ball…Get the hint? [photo: unhwildcats.com]
  3. #18 Trevor Knight (QB, Sophomore, 6’0″, 201 lb): After shedding his redshirt a season ago, where he saw action in 12 games, Knight has officially taken over at QB as a true sophomore. UNH has been known for solid offenses that are predicated on a strong all-around passing game. Knight, hailing from Amherst, N.H., has gotten off to an average start so far this season. Through four games, he has thrown for 604 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, while adding an impressive 249 rushing yards 1 rushing touchdown on the ground. He actually rushes the ball often, and has rushed no less than 8 times in every single game this season, including a high of 18 rushes week two against Holy Cross. He’s a good bet to tuck and run, or keep the ball on a potential read-option come Thursday, which is sure to keep the Green and Gold defense on its toes. The W&M defense will need to take away the run game and force the first-year starting QB to air the ball out on Saturday.

Tribe Keys to Victory

  • Run the Ball: It’s really as simple as that. We know that Albert Funderburke is lost for the year with an ACL tear. But with stud senior RB Kendell Anderson coming off injury at what appears to be the perfect time, the W&M offense has to evolve. QB Steve Cluley has experienced a shaky start to the season, where he has actually thrown for more interceptions than touchdowns (4 touchdowns, 7 interceptions). To help out a struggling QB, the run game has to dominate. If last season’s victory over New Hampshire is any indication (49 rushes for the Tribe), W&M should stick to what works. Run early, run often, and put points on the board.
  • Stop their Ground Game: As noted in our blurb about UNH’s QB, Trevor Knight, he’s an inexperienced sophomore who likes to run the ball. When he has to pass, he has proven to be a tad shaky this year, with a 6:5 touchdown to interception ratio. However, this key to victory not only includes stopping Knight, but also his counterpart, RB Dalton Crossan. Stopping Crossan will be a tough task, as the W&M linebackers will need to earn their keep if the Tribe is to come out with a victory on Saturday. But with emerging studs all across the defensive unit, we believe they have more than enough to get the job done.
  • Involve More Offensive Weapons: There is only so much an offense can do and there is only so varied an offense can be when it goes through just one player. So far for the Tribe this year, that player has been WR DeVonte Dedmon. While Dedmon has been on fire (366 receiving yards, 3 TDs), the offense needs to take advantage of its other offensive weapons. We’ve already mentioned Kendell Anderson, but WRs Jack Armstrong and Daniel Kuzjak, as well as TE Andrew Caskin need to be more heavily utilized. All three of these players held key roles in last year’s passing attack–so much so, that opposing defenses really had to pick their poison when determining who they would focus most of their attention on covering. We need to get back to this. And it starts with coaching, offensive play-calling, and ultimately, the quarterback position.

Viewing: When & Where

Live stream on the UNH YouTube Channel (Free): Saturday, 3:30 PM Save the link here!

W&M Sports Blog Prediction

Tribe 28 New Hampshire 21

It’ll be a tough test for the Tribe, on the road against UNH in front of its Homecoming crowd. The Green and Gold offense will need to improve, and the defense will need to prove it can continue to get the job done away from Williamsburg. If Kendell Anderson has a big showing, we predict Steve Cluley will follow suit. We know he’s a great quarterback; he showed he can get it done last season. Look for the Tribe to turn the page and right the ship in this one. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

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