This Ain’t Your Grandpa’s W&M Team

W&M true freshman QB Hollis Mathis earned CAA Rookie of the Week honors for his performance in week 1. [photo via]
How about that game?! With newfound energy and passion, W&M’s new coaching staff got things started on the right foot this past week against Lafayette.

And while the majority of the players stayed the same from last year, many true freshmen and other first-year players got looks in the Green and Gold’s new system. From refreshed camaraderie on the field to the enhanced play-calling on it, Tribe fans everywhere should be confident in where the team is heading this season.

2018 CAA Offensive Ranks vs. 2019 Lafayette Game

Now while the below comparisons aren’t completely fair — as it’s comparing one game against a lowly Patriot League team (Lafayette) against the totality of last season’s statistics, it’s still an important indicator of how this team is beginning its 2019 campaign.

  • 2018 W&M Total Offense:
    241.5 YPG (12 of 12 CAA teams)
    vs. Lafayette Week 1 – 418 total yards (+176.5Image result for omg emoji
  • 2018 W&M Passing Offense:
    186.2 YPG (9th of 12 CAA teams)
    vs. Lafayette Week 1 – 163 passing yards (-23.2)
  • 2018 W&M Rushing Offense:
    55.3 YPG (12th of 12 CAA teams)
    vs. Lafayette Week 1 – 255 rushing yards (+199.7) Image result for omg emoji
  • 2018 W&M Scoring Offense:
    13.6 PPG (12th of 12 CAA teams)
    vs. Lafayette Week 1 – 30 points (+16.4)

The statistic that stands out most is the incredible difference in rushing yards — in the season opener, W&M rushed for 200 more yards than the team averaged all of last season. That’s an incredible number, but not one that we’re too surprised about.

W&M has always had a great stable of running backs in recent years, from Jonathan Grimes to Mikal Abdul-Saboor, to Kendell Anderson — the list goes on. The talent has always been there, but the play calling and offensive scheme hasn’t always been there.

When we profiled new W&M Offensive Coordinator Brennan Marion‘s highly multiple GoGo offense earlier this year, we were licking our chops at what could be. An unabashed run-first offense, using the passing game to keep the defense on its toes, W&M fans should expect to see a heavy dose of the run this year.

Hollis Mathis & Kilton Anderson

Both Hollis Mathis (left) and Kilton Anderson (right) flashed big play ability in the Tribe’s Season Opener. [photo via]
Without a doubt, the talk of the town has been the play of true freshman QB Hollis Mathis. Once a sleeper in the race for the starting position, Hollis has emerged as what could be the next 4-year starter for this W&M offense.

A pro-style quarterback who doubles as a dual-threat, he showed poise in the pocket, incredible running acumen, the ability to thread the needle, and an impressive deep ball. After it was all said and done, Mathis broke the single game QB rushing record for W&M in just his first game, amassing 127 yards and 1 TD on 16 carries — often on unplanned, improvised runs. This performance was good enough to earn him CAA Rookie of the Week honors.

Mathis also split time with fellow QB Kilton Anderson, a graduate transfer from Coastal Carolina. And while Mathis proved to be electric in both the rushing and the passing game, Anderson proved to be a great passer. On just 4 completed throws, Anderson finished with 100 yards — including an opening-game trick play, which included all four QBs on the field and a long gain through the air.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention the play of W&M running back Owen Wright, who pounded in two rushing touchdowns; Wright looks like the lead back at this early junction in the season, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to carry the load the rest of the way. The 5’11” 215 pound sophomore looks poised for a breakout season.

W&M Defense

Led by senior captain Bill Murray, the Tribe’s defense thrived in the second half against Lafayette — forcing 4 total turnovers. [photo via]
It was truly a tale of two halves for the Tribe, as the Green and Gold defense looked shaky in the first, before locking down in the second. And although the visiting Lafayette Leopards racked up 368 total yards, the Tribe defense forced 4 turnovers in the contest — while also forcing Lafayette to shuffle through two quarterbacks, in hopes of one breaking out (that never happened).

At the half, Lafayette led 10-6; from there, the Tribe would go on to score 20 points in the second half, while the Leopards would only score 7 more points. Like we said, it was a tale of two halves — as both the W&M offense and defense settled in, especially during the 3rd quarter, to completely pull away from visiting Lafayette. 

From an individual player standpoint, sophomore linebacker Trey Watkins led the team with 10 total tackles, while defensive lineman Will Kiely finished with 6 total tackles. Kiely’s running mate, Bill Murray, finished with 5 total tackles, leading the team with 1.5 sacks (while also battling some sort of upper body injury).

If W&M can replicate its second-half play in the coming weeks, and if the offense can keep humming along, the Green and Gold will turn a lot of heads this season.



UVA Game Outlook

As mentioned in our win/loss prediction article, this is a strong UVA team. No longer is their football team the laughing stock of the ACC (and the state for that matter). Hell, they may even beat Virginia Tech this year (okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, that will probably never happen). But this team is good.

As is the case with every FBS team that W&M faces, they’ll be bigger, faster, and stronger — with an explosive quarterback looking to take his league by storm, UVA fans will come out in force on Friday night for their team’s Home Opener.

Goal number one for W&M should be to come out injury-free, especially at key positions such as quarterback. We expect the W&M offense to show some never-before-seen looks, and the defense to scheme for a heightened level of play. 

Tune in to the ACC Network this Friday at 8 PM to catch the game. 

P.S. If you needed any extra motivation for this week’s game, watch the below video. LET’S GO TRIBE.



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