Post-Game Analysis: W&M @ Maine

Another week, another W&M loss. Seems to be the pattern this year, and we don’t like it. Yet another slow start led to an even slower finish — and has been the trend so far this year, we saw lots of play from multiple W&M quarterbacks. In short, an average Maine team throttled the Tribe, winning by a score of 23-6. W&M’s defense kept the team in it at first, as it was only 3-3 after the first quarter. But W&M’s offense would post a slow start and finish the game with just 3 points in the final 3 quarters. With the loss, W&M falls to 2-6 (0-5 CAA) on the year. Sigh.

The Good

  • The Young Guns on D: Honestly, it is getting harder and harder each week to find something to write in this section. Although we sound like a broken record by now, we give credit to the young players on this year’s Tribe defense. Week in and week out, W&M is getting huge production out of freshmen and sophomores, and this week was no different. Sophomore safety Corey Parker led the unit with 12 tackles and 1 pass break up. Sophomore DT Bill Murray had what was likely his best game of the season registering 7 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Sophomore DE Gavin Johnson continues to impress, finishing with 5 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, and 0.5 sacks. True freshman Will Kiely is also showing loads of potential, finishing with 4 tackles a 1 TFL at Maine. There is no doubt in our mind that while the defense is good this year, they will be even better next year, and in the years to come. Coach Laycock and company have done an excellent job in recent years assembling high caliber recruiting classes, and it shows. Now…. can we get the offense going. Pretty please?

The Bad

  • W&M’s QB Carousel: So far this season, Tribe fans have been hoping for one of W&M’s QBs to establish himself as the true starter. And every game, that person doesn’t emerge. True freshman QB Shon Mitchell got the first shot again on Saturday, starting the game against Maine. On his first drive (after W&M’s defense forced a fumble and recovered it at the Maine 18), Mitchell threw an interception on 3rd and goal from the 6 — foreshadowing things to come. From there, Mitchell would go just 1 for 12 with 14 yards passing and 1 INT. At the half, despite the score just 13-3 due to the strong play of the W&M defense, Laycock had seen enough. Shon was pulled in favor of junior QB Tommy McKee. Much like the JMU game, Tommy would lead the team all the way down the field to start the half. And much like the JMU game, W&M would come away with 0 points. This time, due to a missed 34-yard field goal by Kris Hooper.
    True freshman QB Shon Mitchell couldn’t get the offense going on Saturday in Maine. [photo via Pete Clawson, tribeathletics.com]
    Tommy finished the game 5 of 10 for 43 yards and 0 INTs, while adding 7 carries for 47 yards. Additionally, if not for Tommy’s 47 rushing yards, W&M’s rushing stats would have looked miserable, as both RBs, Nate Evans (2.3 yards per carry) and Albert Funderburke (2.5 YPC), turned in unimpressive performances. In our mind, with regards to the QB position, Coach Laycock needs to make a decision on who the starter will be for the rest of the year and stick with it. He can’t keep playing multiple quarterbacks each game, and we think he knows it. If it were up to us, Shon would play the rest of the year, for development’s sake. Taking him out every game that he starts does nothing but hurt his confidence. There is no doubt Shon is talented, and he needs to use this season as a growing opportunity to work out all the kinks. Let’s face it, W&M is not making the playoffs this year. Start Shon, keep him in the whole rest of the season, and ride it out. That’s our two cents, but as always, we’ll get 100% behind whoever Jimmy chooses. Because #InJimmyeWeTrust
  • Tribe Running Game: While the QB situation has been a disaster this year, W&M’s run game has performed well, all things considered. But that was not the case in this one. Freshman Nate Evans (16 carries, 37 yards, 2.3 yards per carry) and sophomore Albert Funderburke (11 carries, 27 yards, 2.5 ypc) simply couldn’t get anything going. The dynamic duo is suffering from the lack of QB play for the Green and Gold. Opposing teams are stacking the box, daring W&M to throw the ball while stuffing the run game. This is a smart strategy, and one that opposing defenses will continue to conduct until W&M finds a reliable passer under center. We have faith in this Tribe RB corps, and think they will be fine moving forward. This was just a brutal game for the unit, as it was for the entire W&M offense.

The Ugly

  • Slow Offensive Start: In the beginning of the year, during out of conference play, we highlighted W&M’s slow start trend as something that would hurt the team come CAA play. After the first 5 games, W&M had been outscored by opponents 63-26 in the first half, and in the CAA, the team was being outscored 37-3 in the first half. Guess what? Nothing has changed. In fact, the trend has gotten worse. Through 8 games, W&M has been outscored in the first half by a score of 106-29. In CAA play, W&M has been outscored in the first half by a score of 79-6. Really? Outscored by 73 points in the first half of CAA play? Wow. It’s no wonder that W&M is still looking for its first win in CAA play, sitting at 0-5 in conference play. This team needs to wake up offensively. Throw in some trick plays, throw some deep balls, do SOMETHING. Because right now, nothing is working. Something has to give.

Around the CAA

In surprising fashion, Towson pulled out a victory at home over the upstart Delaware Blue Hens. Rhode Island also picked up a surprising win over Albany on the road. With those wins, W&M now becomes the only team in the CAA yet to win a league game. Let that sink in. In other news, JMU blanked UNH (W&M’s opponent next week), despite a good fight put up by the Wildcats. Stony Brook continued their strong play, moving to 5-1 in league contests. And Elon, the story of the CAA so far this season, has ripped off 7-straight wins, their most recent one a 19-14 road victory over Villanova. Even more impressively, the Phoenix won 4 of those 7 games against ranked opponents; they are led by a true freshman QB and RB phenom Malcolm Summers. This team looks like they can beat anybody (except maybe JMU, of course). And oh by the way, the Phoenix are now the #7-ranked team in the nation. How’s that for a one year turnaround?

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 7.53.31 PM

Look Ahead

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t get any easier for W&M. Next week, #21-ranked UNH comes to town looking to recover following last week’s loss to #1 JMU. The Wildcats QB was injured against JMU, so that is worth watching. But W&M will need to score some first half points to have any chance in this one. Roll Tribe!

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