For the first time since 1997, William and Mary was shutout Saturday, receiving a 21-0 beatdown from the Delaware Blue Hens in what was supposed to be a matchup of two CAA-title contenders.
An ineffective rushing attack, inconsistent quarterback play, conservative play-calling and ineptitude on third down netted the Tribe (3-3, 1-2 CAA) no points and just 210 yards of offense, while the defense once again turned in a solid performance that just wasn’t enough to keep the College in the game.
“Offensively we couldn’t get anything going,” head coach Jimmye Laycock said. “And as soon as we’d get something going we’d make a mistake.”
When an undisclosed illness kept sophomore starting quarterback Mike Graham from facing the Blue Hens, the Tribe was forced to turn to senior Mike Paulus, who had started the year as the starter but was benched due to ineffectiveness in his first three games.
Paulus struggled again, going 10 of 24 for just 84 yards and throwing two costly interceptions. After his second, Laycock made the switch to sophomore Brent Caprio in the third quarter. Later in the fourth, Laycock turned to freshman Raphael Ortiz, who got the first game action of his career, going 1 of 3 for five yards. Of his four starts this season, Paulus has been pulled from three due to poor play. Once again he refused to talk to the media after the game.
“He had trouble reading in the secondary,” Laycock said. “He made some poor decisions with the throws.”
With Graham’s status still unknown for next week when the Tribe hosts New Hampshire, Laycock wouldn’t say who will be under center if Graham remains sidelined.
Paulus got little help from his supporting cast. Dropped passes were all too prevalent, and the running game never got on track. Senior running back Jonathan Grimes carried 15 times for just 47 yards. Added up, the offense simply couldn’t sustain drives, converting just one of its 13 third down chances.
The game started with the Tribe controlling the field position battle as sophomore punter Drake Kuhn pinned the Blue Hens on their own two to start their second drive. But Delaware began to march down the field with quarterback Tim Donnelly using both his arm and his legs to cut up the College’s defense. A pass interference call on 3rd and six from the Tribe’s 44 kept the Blue Hens drive alive, and on the next play Donnelly found a wide open wide receiver at the goal line for a 29 yard touchdown pass to put Delaware up 7-0 after the extra point.
“We played decent at times, we just weren’t as consistent as we wanted to be,” said junior safety Brian Thompson, who finished with 10 tackles, one for a loss. “We made a few mistakes here and there and that cost us.”
The defense was also hobbled by the absence of star junior linebacker Dante Cook who suffered a knee injury in the team’s home loss to James Madison. Senior linebacker Jake Trantin led the team with 12 tackles, while senior safety Jake O’Connor picked Donnelly for Delaware’s only turnover late in the second quarter.
After Kuhn missed a 44-yard field goal kept the Tribe scoreless, the defense held, forcing a three-and-out.
But the College’s offense didn’t do any better, going three-and-out itself. The field position battle then quickly turned in Delaware’s favor when Kuhn badly shanked a punt from the Tribe’s 19 that was marked out of bounds for a net of just five yards. Four plays later, Delaware tailback Andrew Pierce scampered in from four yards out to give Delaware a two-score early in the second quarter.
Pierce would go on to gouge the Tribe for a total of 143 yards on 28 carries.
From there, the rout was on, as the Tribe continued to struggle offensively. After earning two first downs on the College’s next drive, Paulus threw his first pick from the Delaware 19 yard line, derailing the College’s most promising drive of the night.
In the wake of being shut out for the first time since 1997, when the Blue Hens dealt the Tribe a 14-0 defeat, the team finds itself near the bottom of the conference looking up needing to gain a lot of ground during a difficult schedule in order to make a run at a playoff berth. With a CAA record of 1-2, the College is seventh in the conference with against all three first-place teams still to come. One of those teams, New Hampshire, will be in Williamsburg Saturday to take on the battered Tribe.