UMass 27, William and Mary 23
The College entered its season opener in Amherst, Mass. with a No. 4 preseason ranking, a new quarterback, and national title aspirations. But instead of picking up where it left off last season, the Tribe’s shaky defense allowed CAA foe Massachusetts (1-0, 1-0 CAA) to overcome a 9-point fourth quarter deficit en route to a 27-13 loss Saturday.
The Tribe held the momentum for the majority of the game, but a series of runs by the Minuteman tailback tandem of Jonathan Hernandez and John Griffin overpowered the Tribe run defense. The College allowed UMass to gain 215 yards, three touchdowns and 11 first downs on 52 carries. Hernandez had 132 of those yards, while Griffin added 84.
“It was a good game to watch and a tough one to lose,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I thought, in a lot of respects, we played very well, but we did not to do what we needed to do defensively.”
While the defense faltered Saturday, senior quarterback Mike Callahan stood tall. The fifth year senior threw for 221 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while completing 21 of 35 of his passes. He also scrambled for a 28-yard touchdown run on a pivotal fourth down in the second quarter.
“It was a great experience to get a game under my belt. I wished it could have turned out a little better,” Callahan said. “We had our shots here and there, and there were a few third downs that we didn’t capitalize.”
The Tribe was forced to rely on Callahan as the College’s three-pronged rushing attack failed to live up to its preseason hype Saturday. Junior Jonathan Grimes and senior Courtland Marriner amassed 113 yards on the ground, but Grimes, a preseason selection to the Walter Payton Award Watch List, only rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries for an average of 3.7 yards per carry.
After the College’s defense forced the Minutemen to punt on their opening possession, Callahan methodically guided the offense down the field in his first possession as a collegiate quarterback. Callahan connected with senior fullback Jimmy Hobson on a five-yard completion to put the College up 7-0.
The Minutemen quickly answered, utilizing a 12-play, 46 yard drive capped by a 36-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Kyle Havens to wide receiver Anthony Nelson. Griffin was a significant force on that drive, accounting for 38 yards on four carries.
The College took the lead again on an eight play, 82-yard drive orchestrated by Callahan. After leading the Tribe down the field to the UMass 28, Callahan scored a rushing touchdown on fourth down and eight.
The Minutemen and the College traded scores to end the second half, and the College entered halftime with a 16-14 lead. They would maintain that margin until Callahan hit senior wide receiver Cameron Dohse for a 34-yard touchdown strike to go up nine points with 14:20 remaining in the contest.
After UMass utilized the tandem of Hernandez and Griffin to wear down the Tribe defense and score 14, the Tribe had one final chance at the end of the game. But any hopes of a comeback were dashed when a Callahan pass ricocheted off Grimes’s hands an into the waiting arms of a UMass defender, sealing the victory.
“I thought offensively, we played pretty well, it was just a crazy thing that happened at the end there with the interception,” Laycock said.
The College returns home next Saturday to take on Virginia Military Institute at Zable Stadium in Williamsburg still in search of their first victory.
“We have to get our running game going a little better upfront, and defensively, we have a lot of things to shore up,” Laycock said.