Post-Game Analysis: W&M vs. Bucknell

VICTORY! W&M came away victorious in its Home Opener over the Bucknell Bison, extending the team’s short win streak to 2. The Green and Gold got off to a shaky start, but a strong third quarter, in which the Tribe scored 20 points, propelled the team to victory.

The Good

  • RB Nate Evans: Last week, Evans received playing time in the final series against Norfolk State, and in limited time, we liked what we saw. Despite the game nearing “garbage time,” Evans hit the holes hard, and gave it 100% on every play. This week against Bucknell, Evans led the Tribe offense with 89 rushing yards on 18 carries (4.9 yards per carry), adding a touchdown; he was easily the best running back on the field on Saturday. He’s a shifty runner with good top-end speed. He reminds us a lot of another talented Tribe RB, Albert Funderburke. When the Tribe gets Funderburke back (still recovering from last year’s ACL tear), the team will boast a very formidable RB duo in Funderburke and Evans. Strong running back play has been the hallmark of Jimmye Laycock-led offenses in the recent past, and that looks continue well into the future with several strong backs in the pipeline.
  • Rushing Defense: This unit is impressive, to say the least. A season ago, the Tribe gave up 200 rushing yards per game, on average. Not great. However, the trend has not held this year, as the Green and Gold’s stalwart front 7 continues to shut opposing run games down. On Saturday, Bucknell rushed 34 times for, yes, 23 yards. In case you were wondering, that’s an average of 0.7 yards. Are you kidding me? Bonus stat: in the season opener, UVA rushed 32 times for 92 yards (2.9 average), and last week, Norfolk State rushed 30 times for 101 yards (3.4 average). If you combine stats from the first three games (216 total rushing yards against the Tribe), you end up with roughly the number of yards that W&M was giving up on the ground PER GAME last year (207.4). Now that is an incredible improvement. Credit to defensive coordinator Trevor Andrews and his defensive line, led by senior captain/defensive end Matt Ahola, his fellow defensive lineman Isaiah Stephens, and sophomore LB Nate Adkins. Keep an eye on these boys moving forward this year.
True Freshman Nate Evans looks poised for a breakout season. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
  • W&M’s Front 7: Not only is this defense stopping the run, but they are also getting to the quarterback. Two things the Green and Gold could not do last year. In last Saturday’s contest, the Tribe racked up 6 sacks from six different players. The defense has talent, is deep, and looks to wreak havoc come CAA play. And oh yeah, W&M ranks tied for first in the entire nation in sacks (14), and 2nd in the nation in Tackles for Loss (28). Roll Damn Tribe.
  • WR Jalen Christian: Jalen Christian returned from injury for his first game of the season against Bucknell, and boy did he make an immediate impact. He was phenomenal in the return game, making play after play and consistently getting the Tribe into great field position. Jalen returned 4 punt returns for 62 yards (15.5 average), and 3 kickoff returns for 53 yards (17.7 average). He looked explosive and shifty in the return game. While only finishing with 15 yards receiving, his impact was certainly felt in the return game. With the loss of senior WR DeVonte Dedmon for an indefinite period of time, we’ll look for Jalen to become a bigger part of the offense as the season progresses.
Former South Carolina transfer Jalen Christian doing what he does best, leaving opposing defenders in the dust. [photo via tribeathletics.com]

The Bad

  • Another Slow Start: After a slow start against the Norfolk State Spartans a week ago in which W&M found itself tied 0-0 after the first quarter, the Tribe offense followed up with another slow start in this one. Yes, the Green and Gold did take a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, but Bucknell would claw back into the game in dramatic fashion, scoring a TD and adding a field goal going into half. The game stood 10-9 after two, as Tribe fans everywhere scratched their heads wondering how a middling Patriot League team was hanging with W&M through two quarters. And although the Tribe would get it going in the second half, the team will need to make some big-time changes to the way it comes out of the gate, especially offensively. If the team carries on this trend in CAA play, it will regularly find itself down by 2 or more scores in the first quarter. There’s no coming back from that against teams like JMU and Richmond.
  • Special Teams: The Tribe punted the ball five times on Saturday, averaging 34.4 yards per punt. The good news is, one of the punts was downed inside the 20 on a nice boot by freshman Will Michael. We actually like what we see out of Michael; he’s proven he can hang as a true freshman. The future is bright for the Tribe punting game, but we’ll definitely have to go through some growing pains this year. Kicker Kris Hooper also missed an easy 35-yard field goal on Saturday, marking his second missed field goal in as many weeks. So while the return game and Jalen Christian were great, the punting and kicking game left us wanting.

The Ugly

  • Total Yards: In a game where the scoreboard indicated a blowout, 30-9, the Tribe put up just 281 yards of total offense. The Green and Gold finished with just 55 more yards than Bucknell. While the ground game got going, rushing for 176 yards, quarterback Tommy McKee closed with a mere 105 yards through the air. The defense has been a huge bright spot for the Tribe this season, but the offense has yet to get it going. To put this in perspective, W&M posted 20 points last week against Norfolk State. JMU, albeit the #1 ranked team in FBS football, put up 75 points against the same Norfolk State team this past weekend. Oh, and that was with their backups in for most the game. Point being, W&M’s offense will need to get going early and often going into CAA play and beyond this season.
The Tribe’s defensive line, including defensive tackle Bill Murray, has begun the season at record-setting pace — currently leading the nation in sacks. [photo via tribeathletics.com]

Around the CAA

The CAA finished 10-1 this past Saturday, with one loss — UNH fell to Holy Cross. Elon picked up an eye-opening victory over a ranked Charleston Southern team. Through two weeks, just 2 teams in the CAA have a record below .500. JMU did what they do, putting up a truly insane 75 points on Norfolk State. Get ready for this year’s homecoming game! In case you forgot, we’ll be playing JMU. However, W&M has traditionally played JMU very close in the rivalry game. Don’t believe us? Just last year, a year that saw the Dukes claim the national title, your William & Mary Tribe stayed with the team in purple all the way to end of the 4th quarter on the road in Harrisonburg — narrowly falling 31-24. The only caveat being that JMU looks even stronger this year than they did last year. Go figure. We believe!

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 8.40.02 PM
photo via caasports.com

Look Ahead

W&M will be on a bye this week. An oddly placed bye, to say the least. Nonetheless, perhaps this week will be used to get players like offensive lineman Chris Durant and running back Albert Funderburke healthy. That would be nice. Following the bye, the Tribe will return for its first CAA game of the season, at home against the Stony Brook Seawolves. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

 

 

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