Game Preview: William & Mary vs. Bucknell

Last week, the Tribe upended Norfolk State, 20-6, in a game that may actually have been closer than the final box score indicated. This week, the boys turn to a Patriot League opponent in the Bucknell Bison. This game marks the final out-of-conference contest for the Tribe, as the final 8 matchups come against CAA opponents.

Bucknell Last Year

A season ago, Bucknell finished 4-7 overall, ranking 4 of 7 in the Patriot League with a 3-3 in-conference record. Surprisingly, the Bison had a better away record (3-3) than home record (1-4). Doesn’t make much sense, does it? In a notable contest against 21st-ranked Lehigh on the road, the Bison fell in a surprisingly competitive game, 20-13.

Bucknell Football Statistics
The Bison will look to improve upon a subpar record from a year ago. [photo via]
The team was balanced on offense, averaging 21.1 points, 144.3 rushing yards, and 183.1 passing yards per game (5th-ranked Scoring Offense in the Patriot). As an interesting side note, the team played 3 different QBs last season. Was this a portend of things to come this year as well? We’ll have to wait and see.

On defense, the Bison gave up 23.9 points per game, as opponents averaged 133.6 rushing yards and 232.5 passing yards per game respectively (3rd-ranked Scoring Defense in the Patriot). Impressively, the Bison defense finished with 27 sacks and 15 interceptions on the year. If you’re a numbers person, that’s an average of 2.45 sacks and 1.36 interceptions per game. Bottom line, this defense has the ability to turn the ball over.

Bucknell this Year

Going into the season, Bucknell was picked to finish 5th in the conference, narrowly losing the 4th spot to Holy Cross. If you’ll recall, the Bison finished last season in the 4-spot, and looking at the votes, it seems as though league pundits are projecting them for more of the same this year.

PLFB Coaches Poll
The Bison were picked to finish 5th in the Patriot League, one spot down from their 4th place finish last season. [photo via]
Like the Tribe, the Bison split its first two games, starting the year 1-1. They blew out the Marist Red Foxes (one of our finalists for best collegiate mascots) in their opening game, winning by a blowout score of 45-6. Last week, Bucknell was blanked by fellow Patriot League member Holy Cross, losing by a score of 20-0. What a swing from week one to week two!

Now, Bucknell finds itself on the road looking for its first road win of the year against your beloved William & Mary Tribe. But to that we say, not so fast Bison!

Bucknell Players to Watch

  1. Senior RB Joey DeFloria (#23) & Sophomore RB Chad Freshnock (#20): The Bison ran the ball 461 times last year, while only attempting 339 passes — meaning they ran the ball 122 times more than they passed in 2016. Make no mistake, this is a run-first team with a two-headed monster leading the way. DeFloria (1,091 rushing yards) and Freshnock (626 rushing yards) finished with a combined 1,717 rushing yards last season. Moreover, both finished with 10 rushing touchdowns on the season. Their 20 combined touchdowns far outpaced the 9 combined passing touchdowns the team threw the entirety of last season. Long story short, get ready to see a lot of #23 and #20 this Saturday in Williamsburg.
    Joey DeFloria, a 2016 2nd-team All-Patriot League selection, has a nose for the end zone, finishing with over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago. [photo via]
  2. Senior DL Abdullah Anderson (#40):  Anderson is a 6’4″ 295 pound defense lineman who wreaks havoc on opposing offensive lines. Last year, Anderson led the Bison in tackles for loss, finishing with 13.5, resulting in a combined 70 yards lost for opposing teams on those plays. Wow. Oh, and he also led the team in sacks with 8.5 last year. This will be a tall task for the offensive line on Saturday; W&M’s line will need to look to double #40 early and often.
  3. Senior LB Ben Richard (#29): Keeping with the defensive theme here, linebacker Ben Richard led the team in total tackles last season, and it wasn’t even close. He finished with 95 total tackles, 20 more than the player who finished second. Like Anderson, he knows how to make big plays, finishing with 11.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks last season, both good enough for second on the team.
    Senior LB Ben Richard finished as a First Team All-Patriot League selection last year. [photo via]
  4. Senior QB Matt Muh (#14): The quarterback situation was a mess last season. Multiple QBs saw playing time, but it was Muh who finished the year with the most passing yards. He completed 76 of 134 passes (56.7%), to go along with 847 passing yards, 4 TDs, and 5 INTs. Not great numbers by any stretch of the imagination. So far this season, Muh has been the only starter under center for the Bison. Through two games, he has completed 60% of his passes for 343 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. It remains to be seen how long he lasts as the starter, but one thing is for certain: the quarterback position is again not strong this season for the Bison this season.

Keys to Victory

  • Stop the Run & Force the Pass: As we’ve said, Bucknell is a run-first team. That means it’s time to stack the box, fill the gaps, and clog the running lanes up front. Don’t let DeFloria and Freshnock get going, because we know what they can do, especially around the red zone. Force the Bison’s below average passing game to air it out. And that intros well to our next key to victory:
  • Get to the QB & Make Plays on Defense: In forcing the Bison to throw the ball, the Tribe needs to continue getting to the quarterback. Last week saw the W&M defense finish with 5 sacks against the Norfolk State Spartans; it’s time to keep that streak alive on Saturday, and well into CAA play. The Green and Gold will need to get to the QB and force errant throws, coming down with one or two game-changing interceptions. It’s time to let our strong defensive backfield flex its muscles. Pick six, anyone?
  • AIR IT OUT!: We know what he can do with his legs. Now, we need to see what Tommy McKee can do with his arm. This will be the last “warm up” before CAA play officially kicks off in W&M’s next game vs. Stony Brook. If we don’t have a quarterback we know can routinely air it out for 250+ yards each week without turning the ball over, then what are we doing? Jimmye Laycock offenses are known for stellar quarterback play, and for getting the most out of the man under center. It’s time for Jimmye, and newly crowned offensive coordinator D.J. Mangas, to get the offense going through McKee’s arm. Let’s see what he’s got. We expect Tommy to finish with his best statistical outing through the air so far this season on Saturday.

Viewing: When & Where

Related image  Image result for bucknell football helmet

Time: Saturday, 6:00 PM
Location: Zable Stadium (Williamsburg, VA)
WatchStreaming on Tribe TV (click here!)

W&M Sports Blog Prediction
Tribe 36 Bison 13

We look for the Tribe defense to shine, especially in the defensive backfield. 1-2 interceptions should be expected in this contest. As should 250+ passing yards from our new quarterback. It’s time to pull out all the stops and test our team one final time before CAA play. See you in Williamsburg! LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

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