Homecoming Weekend has finally arrived. Not long ago, perhaps two or three weeks ago, the Williamsburg humidity was in full force, thousands of tourists continued their summer migration to CW (Colonial Williamsburg for those of you not cool enough to know), and students adjusted back to luxurious dorm life after spending the past few months spoiled at home. But at long last, all of that is dying down. And while W&M students are likely still adjusting to waking up for 8 AM classes (we don’t envy you), change is in the air. The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling off, and apple cider is back. What more could you ask for? Oh, that’s right. Some William & Mary football on Homecoming weekend in the newly renovated Zable Stadium.
For many, this will be their first time back on campus to experience the newly renovated Stadium, and boy is it awesome. A brand new club level, upgraded bathrooms, an entirely new upper deck, new concessions, and much more (had to give the upgraded bathrooms the #2 spot there, naturally). A packed Zable Stadium just might do wonders for the Tribe on the gridiron this Saturday as the Green and Gold play host to long-time CAA foes, the Delaware Blue Hens. It’s time to right the ship and finish out the year strong.
Last Season: W&M vs. Delaware
Heart breaker. That really is the only way to describe it. Last season, Delaware knocked off favored William and Mary on a last-second field goal. The kick gave the Blue Hens a 24-23 win on national television, dropping W&M to 2-2, 1-1 CAA. It really was the only head-scratching loss during what was otherwise a great season for the Tribe last year. Going into the 4th quarter, W&M was up 20-14. Things were looking up, as the Tribe held the Blue Hens scoreless in the third. Then the momentum shifted.
W&M couldn’t move the ball on offense. The defense let up. And Delaware took advantage. Led by running back Thomas Jefferson (yes, we kid you not) and a young QB in then-freshman Joe Walker, Delaware would drive down the field and score on a last second field goal. Final score: Delaware 24 W&M 23. Truly a heart breaker. Junior RB Kendell Anderson finished with 101 rushing yards, and sophomore WR DeVonte Dedmon scored twice, once on an 89-yard punt return TD and again on a 57-yard catch and run to the house. However, all in vain, as Delaware was able to secure the big upset win at home.
Delaware This Year
Run, run, and run some more. That’s this year’s mantra for the Delaware Blue Hens. Delaware currently ranks #2 in the entire CAA in rushing offense, averaging 271.6 rushing yards per game. For comparison’s sake, William & Mary ranks #6, averaging 162.3 rushing yards per game — a full 100 yards less per contest. All of this has resulted in a decent outcome for the Hens, as they rank #5 in scoring offense, averaging 28.4 points per game to W&M’s paltry 19.8 (9th in the conference).
Defensively, Delaware ranks in the middle of the league. In terms of rushing defense, they rank #6, with opponents 176.2 yards per game on the ground. In the pass defense category, they rank #5, with opponents averaging 191 passing yards per game. As such, W&M will likely need to run a balanced offense on Saturday to keep this defense on its toes. A steady dose of Kendell Anderson will likely do the trick, along with solid play from the QB position and Steve Cluley. However, one statistic that did pop out to us was Delaware’s turnover margin. The Blue Hens average 1.4 turnovers per game, having already racked up 8 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries. This is a team with a nose for the football, so W&M will need to make extra sure to protect the ball on Saturday.
However, Delaware has yet to secure a big win this year, and has lost its last three contests. The Blue Hens began the year with a 56-14 win over Delaware State. They would then go on to defeat Lafayette 24-6 in the second game of the season. From there, the team has gone on to drop its next three contests vs. Wake Forest (38-21), JMU (43-20), and last week to Maine (28-21). Sound familiar? It should, because W&M has also yet to win a game in the CAA 0-3. It pains us to say it, but it’s true. These two teams will be hungry on Saturday, and one will come away with its first in-conference win of the season. On Homecoming Saturday, we believe that the boys in Green and Gold will come out on top and avenge last season’s loss to the Blue Hens.
Delaware’s Players to Watch
- #31 Wes Hills (RB, Redshirt Junior, 6’2″, 205 lb): In terms of total rushing yards per game, Wes Hills is currently the #1 RB in the entire CAA. In a conference stacked with talent at the RB position, including the likes of JMU’s Khalid Abdullah (132.8 yards per game), UNH’s Dalton Crossan (103.2 yards per game), Towson’s Darius Victor (88.5 yards per game), and many more — Hills stands above the rest. Currently, he averages an eye-popping 133.2 yards per game. And although he has averaged so many yards on the ground, he only has 5 touchdowns (compared to Abdullah’s 11 and Victor’s 7). This is because Delaware truly does have a 3-headed monster at the RB position. In addition to Hills, fellow RBs Thomas Jefferson (62.4 yards per game, 3 TDs) and Jalen Randolph (57.6 yards per game, 6 TD) also know how to get it done. In fact, the team barely passes the ball–as starting QB Joe Walker has only attempted an incredibly low 60 passes this season for 330 yards, 2 TD, and 1 INT. Run, run, and run some more.
- #80 Diante Cherry (WR, Redshirt Junior, 5’11”, 185 lb): Although Delaware doesn’t throw the ball often, when they do, it almost exclusively finds its way to #80. The 5’11” junior has accumulated 229 receiving yards and 3 TDs so far this season — 187 more yards than the receiver behind him. Cherry averages 45.8 yards per game, and will likely be matched up with W&M’s top corner this Saturday, senior captain Trey Reed. It will be a tough matchup where Reed will need to be on his toes. Delaware will run it so much that it’ll always be a surprise when Walker goes back looking to pass. Stay alert, stay focused, and the W&M DBs will be fine in this one.
- #5 Charles Bell (LB, Junior, 6’1″, 230 lb): Charles Bell is all over the stat sheet for the Blue Hens this season. Through the first five games, he leads the team in tackles with 36. He also has 4.5 tackles for loss, which also leads the team. He knows how to get into the backfield, and stuff the run. W&M’s lineman will need to identify #5 on each and every play to make sure they have a body on him. Last season, Bell earned Second Team All-CAA honors after he finished the year with 96 tackles and a team-high 39 solo stops, while also adding 1.5 sacks and one interception. There’s no doubt he’s a big leader on this year’s Blue Hens defense. Watch out for #5.
Tribe Keys to Victory
- Stop the Run: W&M’s linebackers will need to step up in this one. Clog the holes, read the play, and run to the ball. Everyone will need to help out though, not just the linebackers. CBs and safeties will need to know when to get off their man and get to the ball when they see the RBs running to the line. W&M will likely play a lot of man coverage, bringing its safeties down, stacking the box, and daring Delaware to throw the ball. As mentioned, the corners for W&M will need to stay alert for when the Blue Hens do actually attempt to throw the football, but we don’t expect that to happen often with their 3-headed monster at the RB position.
- Throw the Ball: Steve Cluley is in his third year as the starting quarterback. And despite all of the experience, he’s had a bad year, currently sporting a 6:10 TD:INT ratio. He’d be the first to tell you he needs to step it up. Throw all of his current stats out the window. We’ve seen what Cluley is capable of, and at this point, it’s all mental. The team truly has absolutely NOTHING to lose at this point, so let’s air it out and get the offense going. All of our weapons are in place: Anderson, Dedmon, Caskin, Armstrong, Kuzjak, Christian, etc. It’s time to open up the playbook and pull out all the stops.
- Get Kendell Touches: Kendell Anderson is a Preseason First-Team All-CAA selection. As we previously mentioned, there are some incredible backs in the league this year, so this preseason accolade is no small feat in itself for Kendell. Since returning from an early season injury, Kendell has really come on. He already easily leads the team in rushing, with 415 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns, while averaging 81.2 yards per game on the ground. Moving forward, we expect to see that number closer to and above 100 yards rushing per game. The offensive line is experienced, as is Kendell, and they need to get him the ball more. Let’s not forget, Kendell can also catch the ball, and has proven his mettle in the passing game on more than one occasion. Get him the ball.
Viewing: When & Where
Live stream on Tribe TV at 3:30 PM. Save the link here!
W&M Sports Blog Prediction
William & Mary 28 Delaware 17
Yes, we know W&M has had a rough go this past few weeks. But the team really has absolutely nothing to lose at this point. We expect 2-3 deep ball completions for senior QB Steve Cluley, a big game out of RB Kendell Anderson, completions to multiple targets, including Caskin, Kuzjack, Dedmon, and Armstrong, and solid play from the defense, and specifically the run stoppers — we’re looking at you Nate Atkins and Isaiah Stephens. The game plan is simple: stop the run. Make them throw. Put points on the board. If all goes according to that plan, W&M will walk away with a big win on Homecoming Weekend in front of a rowdy Zable Stadium. We believe. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!