Well, that wasn’t fun. In front of a sold out Homecoming crowd, W&M was absolutely obliterated by the visiting #1 JMU Dukes, losing by a score of 46-14. It was one of the worst offensive performances we at the Blog have witnessed from a Jimmye Laycock-led team. The scoreboard actually appeared better than it was, if you can believe that, as the Tribe scored two late TDs in garbage time for its only points of the game. W&M has now lost its fourth straight contest, and remains winless in conference play, 2-5 (0-4 CAA). Sigh.
- William & Mary Defense: In a game where JMU scored 46 points, you might be asking yourself, “How in the world is the W&M defense under ‘The Good’ section?” Well, we’ll explain. Six out of JMU’s sixteen drives (almost 40%) started in W&M territory, and in fact, four of those 6 started near the W&M 20-yard line. This was due in large part to the six turnovers committed by the W&M offense (including a pick-6). Now you’re probably saying, “That isn’t good!” You’d be correct. But you’d also think that JMU’s high-powered offense would have scored even more points with such great field position throughout the game. JMU’s offense typically averages around 500 yards per game (470.3), but they were held to “just” 389 in this one. Star QB Bryan Schor turned in a lackluster performance, throwing for a mere 186 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. The W&M defense did its part, forcing turnovers and adding three sacks. In fact, the game was just 0-13 Dukes with 3 minutes left in the half. This game would have been a lot closer had it not been for the performance of the W&M offense, which simply could not put points on the board.
- Punter Will Michael: W&M’s Will Michael had another good performance for the Tribe. Adding a new wrinkle to his game, a rugby-style punt, Michael’s kicks often rolled an extra 15-20 yards after they hit the turf. While not conventional, it sure was effective. These punts consistently kept JMU’s speedy returners from getting the ball, as he averaged 44.3 yards on 7 punts, with 2 inside the 20. We have been impressed with how Michael has performed thus far in just his true freshman year, and look forward to him getting better and better each season.
- Starting 3 Different QBs: Now, true freshman Shon Mitchell has not played great football through two games. At the time he was taken out in the 2nd quarter of this week’s game, he had played almost 6 full quarters of football without the offense scoring a point. BUT, Shon was also playing the number 1 team in the nation, one heck of a defense, and he had committed 0 turnovers. Get this, Tribe fans: at the time Shon was pulled, the game was just 10-0. W&M was certainly still in it. Instead, Coach Laycock went with sophomore Brandon Battle, in search of a much-needed spark. And who could blame him? But in two possessions, Battle fumbled the ball away on 3rd down, and then threw an INT on the next drive, resulting in 9 points for the Dukes. At half, it was 19-0, and the game already appeared out of reach. To start the second half, much to the surprise of many W&M fans, Coach Laycock called upon QB Tommy McKee, still looking for the spark. McKee actually led the Tribe’s opening possession all the way down to the JMU 28-yard line, before throwing a back-breaking interception on 2nd and 2. Tommy would finish the contest, going on to throw 2 more interceptions before the game was all said and done. The rest is history. We just don’t understand the QB carousel that is the 2017 season. In our opinion, W&M has to ride the rest of the year with Shon Mitchell. Let him learn the offense, develop, and become comfortable in the system. He will then have 3 years to prove himself. We’ll see what happens in this Saturday’s upcoming game, but this strategy certainly makes the most sense to us moving forward.
- Yet Another Slow Start: As previously mentioned, W&M was held scoreless through the first 3 quarters on Saturday, and really only scored in garbage time toward the end of the game. It is truly shocking to see how, week in and week out, W&M cannot get it going at the start of games (if at all). Through W&M’s first four CAA games, the Tribe has scored just three total points in the first half. Let us restate that: THREE points in 120 minutes of football, an average of 0.025 points per minute, .375 points per quarter, or .75 points per half. There is one word for that: pathetic. And we know the offense knows it. We have repeatedly noted on the Blog that slow starts will come back to haunt this team in CAA play, and boy has it. Something has to change.
- Turnovers: Jimmye Laycock is well-known for having teams that don’t tend to turn the ball over. That was certainly not the case against JMU, as W&M committed six turnovers in the contest. Tommy McKee had 3 interceptions, Brandon Battle had 1 INT and a fumble, and JMU forced another fumble in addition to that. Not to mention, one of Tommy’s INT’s went for six. QB Shon Mitchell was the only one who did not turnover the ball on Saturday.
- William & Mary Offense: It’s truly hard to describe just how bad the W&M offense was on Saturday. Yes, JMU is a really good team, with a really good defense. But W&M looked like it was going up against NFLers on Saturday. The offense could not get anything going in any facet of the game. Between three quarterbacks, W&M mustered just 154 total passing yards, with 4 interceptions. If you take away Noah Giles’ 66-yard TD late in the fourth (props to Giles for that, by the way), W&M had just 78 rushing yards on 31 carries, an average of 2.52 yards. The team also went a miserable 3/13 on third downs. Injuries have hurt, yes, and missing Andrew Caskin and DeVonte Dedmon have nearly decimated this offense. But we have rarely seen the Tribe offense play so poorly. Back-to-back games of consistent 3 and outs, turnovers, and almost nothing to show on the scoreboard. With that being said, Tribe fans, the future is still bright. It’s tough to see now, but trust us. It’s there. If Shon plays out the rest of the year, he will grow. Freshman Nate Evans is the real deal. And the prospect of having both Shon and Evans (as well as Albert Funderburke) as a 1-2-3 punch in the backfield for 2-3 more years is an exciting prospect. It will take time, and certainly many growing pains, but we’re confident it will pay off in the end.
Around the CAA
Elon extended its win streak to 6 games, and remain undefeated in the CAA (4-0), along with JMU. Delaware pulled out a thrilling (and surprising) double OT win over Richmond on their homecoming. Maine defeated Albany in a low scoring affair.
Next week, W&M will make the long trek to Maine to take on the Black Bears. Maine is 3-3 (2-3 CAA), and has not had a particularly good year, relatively speaking. It will likely be a cold contest up north, and W&M will have its hands full with Maine RB sophomore Josh Mack, who is currently first in the CAA in rushing yards per game (146.7), average (6.1), and yards (880). Oh yeah, and last week he was named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List, the award given annually to the best player in FCS Football. Did we mention he is a sophomore? Either way, we’ll be excited to see the improvement of the W&M offense from here on out. We can only go up from here. Keep the faith Tribe fans. LET’S GO TRIBE.