It included an 80-minute long lightning delay and lasted an exhausting four hours and 24 minutes, but when the book was finally closed on William and Mary’s home opener against Lafayette Saturday night, all the Tribe had to show was 14 points, 197 yards of offense and another tally in the loss column. Oh, and lots of punts from junior kicker Drake Kuhn — nine to be exact.
In fact, Kuhn and sophomore wide receiver Tre McBride were the only effective offensive weapons for the College — McBride because of his two touchdown catches and Kuhn for pinning Lafayette inside its own 10 yard line three separate times. Still, the Tribe fell to 0-2 on the year with a 17-14 loss to Lafayette of the Patriot League.
Head coach Jimmye Laycock didn’t hold back about the offense.
“The offense played terrible,” Laycock said. “We dropped passes, [overthrow] passes, missed blocks. You name it, we were doing it.”
The stat line bore the story of an offense that, for the second straight week, couldn’t find its rhythm. Junior quarterback Michael Graham — starting in place of the injured senior Brent Caprio — went just 7 of 19 for 54 yards, one touchdown and one interception before being benched in the fourth quarter for sophomore Raphael Ortiz. McBride was the only wide receiver to record a catch.
“We just felt like we needed to have something else in there,” Laycock said of the quarterback switch. “We weren’t getting it done there.”
Caprio’s status for next week is unclear, according to Laycock.
Just as worrisome for the College was the ground game. Senior tailback Meltoya Jones ran well, carrying six times for 32 yards, but overall the Tribe’s backs ran 19 times for just 75 yards. Redshirt freshman Mikal Abdul-Saboor’s fumble led to a Lafayette touchdown.
“Obviously, it’s not good enough,” junior center Matt Crisafi said of the ground game. “I don’t know if I can name one [reason] or another, but we need to come in and watch film and get that straight because two weeks in a row we’ve stalled running the ball, and it starts with us up front.”
Things got off on the wrong foot for the College when Graham’s second pass was intercepted by Lafayette’s Jared Roberts on 3rd and 11 of the first drive of the game, setting the Leopards up on the College’s 39. But the defense held Lafayette to a three-and-out and a punt.
Late in the first, the Leopards went on a nine-play, 69-yard drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown run by Vaughn Hebron that put the Leopards up 7-0. Lafayette would end the game with 301 yards of offense in nearly 37 minutes of possession.
Then the threatening clouds overhead lit up with lightning. The field and stadium were cleared until the weather calmed down 80 minutes later.
“We just had to warm up again and make sure we stayed warm in the locker room, stayed hydrated,” senior cornerback B.W. Webb said. “I don’t think it got in the way too much.”
After the teams returned to the puddle-filled turf, the College’s offense finally put something together late in the second quarter with help from the defense. Sophomore defensive lineman Steve Sinnott sacked Lafayette’s Andrew Shoop with one minute, 28 seconds to play in the half, forcing and recovering a fumble to give the Tribe possession on the Leopards’ 34-yard line. Two plays later, Graham lofted a 28-yard pass up near the goal line and McBride outjumped two Lafayette defensive backs, coming down with the ball for the College’s first touchdown of 2012 and tying the game at 7.
The Leopards reclaimed the lead in the third after Saboor coughed it up, giving Shoop and company a short field. Nine plays later, Shoop hit Mike Duncan for an 18-yard touchdown pass to give the Leopards a 14-7 lead with 3:30 left in the third. Then, after another Tribe three-and-out, a mental lapse cost the College dearly.
Sinnott hurried Shoop on 3rd and 4, forcing an incompletion and seemingly getting the ball back to the offense early in the fourth, but as the punt teams lined up, the College was flagged for having 12 men on the field, giving Lafayette a fresh set of downs at midfield.
“We had a guy go in that wasn’t supposed to go in,” Laycock said.
Minutes later, Ethan Swerdlow hit a 34-yarder to put the Leopards up by two scores, 17-7.
“That one hurt us,” Webb said. “I’m not sure if it was focus or something like that, but we definitely can’t do that during the course of a game.”
After another College three-and-out, Laycock made the switch to Ortiz. The Tribe got the ball back on its own 20 with 3:22 left and the sophomore rattled off rushes of eight and 15 yards, as well as completions of 12, 13 and 23, all to McBride. The 23-yarder found the endzone when Ortiz lofted a beautiful touch pass high in the air for McBride, who had gotten behind Lafayette’s cornerback.
But with 1:48 left and the Tribe out of timeouts, Kuhn’s onside kick attempt bounded into the arms of a Lafayette special teamer, sealing the Leopards’ win.
“It feels terrible,” Webb said. “It’s hard to lose at all — period — but it’s even harder when you lose at home.”
The conference season starts Saturday when the Tribe takes on defending-champion Towson.
“There’s a sense of urgency,” Crisafi said. “We’re 0-2, and we want to get a win. I think we’re going to be hungry.”