Of the eight Colonial Athletic Association teams in action this past Saturday, your William and Mary Tribe was the only, yes, the only, team to come out on top. It is worth noting that national powerhouses James Madison and Delaware had the week off, and fellow top teams Villanova and New Hampshire played two very tough FBS opponents in Penn State and Pittsburgh. But for a W&M team that was picked 11th in the preseason poll, it was quite the statement. And at 3-1, the Tribe is out to prove all the haters wrong this season.
On Saturday, the Tribe picked up its third consecutive victory on the road against the Elon Phoenix with a 34-31 victory. Led by true freshman quarterback Darius Wilson under center once again, the Tribe racked up 399 yards of total offense. Wilson finished the game 14-20 for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with 95 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
For his efforts, the New York native was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Week, as well as the FCS National Freshman of the Week. The freshman has been stellar this year in relief of W&M’s regular starting QB Hollis Mathis, who’s still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. In fact, Wilson currently sits in the top-10 in the CAA in completion percentage, total offense, and in rushing.
Alongside Wilson on Saturday was senior tight end Lachlan Pitts, who registered four catches for 70 yards and his first two career touchdowns. The Great Falls, Virginia native had only one career catch coming into the match-up against the Phoenix but made the most of the opportunity; moving forward, he should be a valuable asset for this evolving offense. Also garnering recognition for W&M was punter Will Whitehurst, who averaged an eye-popping 46.7 yards on three punts in the contest against Elon. It’s been a while since W&M fielded a stellar punting game, and it’s a welcome sign for Tribe fans this season.
So as it sits, the Tribe is off to its best start since 2014, at 3-1, having won three straight games for the first time since 2015. 2015 should stick out to loyal Tribe fans, as that was the last time William and Mary qualified for the FCS playoffs. I am not going to make any promises, but that stat cannot be ignored. After the setback against UVA to open the season, William and Mary won the home opener against Lafayette and then brushed away Colgate on the road 27-7.
We would be remiss if we did not mention the #GreenSwarm. The Tribe defense has been stellar this season, sitting in 5th in the CAA in points allowed and leads the conference in sacks. Defensive linemen Will Kiely and Nate Lynn both rank in the top-5 in the conference in sacks with 4 and 3.5 respectively. Senior safety Gage Herdman ranks third in the conference with 3 interceptions, including a pick-6 against Lafayette.
On the offensive side of the ball, running back Donavyn Lester has been brilliant, with 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns. William and Mary ranks third in the conference in team rushing yards, led by both Lester and Darius Wilson. Still think this team will finish 11th in the CAA, like the media did in the preseason polls?
Up next, the Tribe faces Albany at Zable Stadium at 3:30 pm on October 9th. It’ll be Homecoming in Williamsburg, and there is sure to be a packed house to watch the Tribe go for its fourth, count ’em, fourth straight victory. The Great Danes currently sit at 0-3 after facing three tough opponents in the opening weeks of the season. Albany fell to national FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, ACC foe Syracuse, and Rhode Island — keeping the Great Danes outside the top-25 in this week’s FCS rankings.
Before coming to Zable, Albany will travel to #8 Delaware this Saturday for an early season conference matchup. The contest with Albany will mark the beginning of a must-win stretch for the Tribe, with games against Maine and Towson to follow.
William and Mary will then close out the season against the traditional heavyweights of the “SEC of the FCS” with games against Villanova, Delaware, James Madison, and Richmond. It will not be an easy stretch of games in the best conference in the nation, but this team is more than ready for the challenge. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, we have a Homecoming game to win — and until then….
LET’S GO TRIBE.