After a crushing loss to Towson last weekend, William and Mary entered Saturday’s matchup against No. 12 Delaware in sore need of its first victory of the season. Instead, the Blue Hens handed the College a 51-21 drubbing in another lightning-plagued game at Zable Stadium.
The loss brought the College to 0-4 on the season, while Delaware improved to 4-0.
Sophomore quarterback Raphael Ortiz, in his second collegiate start, turned in an up-and-down performance, going 16 for 30 with 262 yards before being pulled in the fourth quarter. Ortiz showed flashes of brilliance and possessed a command of the deep ball, but also turned the ball over three times with an interception and two lost fumbles.
“I think we did a lot of things very, very well on offense. … At halftime, the score is ridiculous, and we’ve got more yards than they do. … We were moving the ball pretty well,” head coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I thought Ortiz was doing well. He had just a couple of fluke things, a couple of turnovers, but that’s making a mistake at the wrong time and the wrong place. But that happens.”
The Tribe had its opportunities, but for every positive step forward, the College took two steps back in the form of a variety of miscues.
Following a 20-yard Delaware field goal at the 6 minute, 37 second mark in the first quarter, capping a 14-play, 78-yard drive, the College offense began to move the ball down the field. A pair of runs by sophomore tailback Keith McBride powered the Tribe to midfield. On 3rd and 1, Ortiz dropped back to pass and was hit by a Delaware defender, causing him to release a wobbly ball. UD’s Zach Kerr collected the ball and the 330-pound defensive lineman rambled 47 yards for the first Blue Hens touchdown of the night, putting Delaware up 10.
“I thought I made a few too many mistakes. … Some of those plays they were just teeing off,” Ortiz said. “The line was blocking great, but I just have to get the ball out of my hands faster. That’s something you have to learn from — that’s game experience. I thought I learned a lot from this game.”
While the College offense had an uneven day, Delaware moved the ball consistently. At the start of the second quarter, the Blue Hens executed a 70-yard drive that resulted in quarterback Trent Hurley sneaking in for a one-yard score.
The Blue Hens heavily relied on junior tailback Andrew Pierce for that drive, as he gained 25 yards, and rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries on the evening. The Blue Hens’s platoon of tailbacks rushed for a total of 225 yards, while Hurley went 12 of 22 for 131 yards. The College defense struggled to contain Pierce and could not get pressure on Hurley when it counted.
“We made a couple mistakes throughout the course of the game and some of those were big mistakes, and it cost us,” senior cornerback B.W. Webb said.
Later in the second quarter, the College continued to move the ball well but was once again plagued by an unfortunate miscue. After a pair of productive rushes by McBride, Ortiz launched back and threw a 58-yard completion to senior wideout Ryan Moody, bringing the Tribe squarely into Delaware territory at the Blue Hens’ 10-yard line.
The drive stalled and senior kicker Drake Kuhn lined up to kick a 27-yard field goal. Kuhn’s kick started low and was blocked by the Blue Hen defense. Delaware cornerback Travis Hawkins picked up the ball and returned it 90 yards for a score, the longest recorded blocked kick return in FCS history.
Five minutes later, the College erased its goose-egg and finally found the end zone. Ortiz looked impressive on the 13-play, 82-yard drive. The sophomore went through his progressions, found the open receiver, and when he was unable to throw it, pulled it down and ran. After getting the College to the Delaware 2, Ortiz took the QB keeper and put the Tribe in the end zone.
“I think in fairness to Raph, he’s also making plays, too,” Laycock said. “He’s creating opportunities to make plays, and it’s a fine line there. It’s experience, he’s going to get better at that. He’s already gotten better from when he’s started to now, and we are putting a lot on him, too. … He’s trying to determine when to scramble, when to pull it down, when to run it, when to keep the play alive. That’s just playing football, that’s just experience.”
Delaware began the second half with a field goal, and the teams traded a few fruitless drives before the weather intervened. Lightning flashed over Zable Stadium, and a 1:21 minute lightning delay interrupted play.
Both squads returned to the field, but the Blue Hens had the game solidly in hand. Delaware scored a pair of touchdowns in the remainder of the third quarter, one of them off a fumble recovery for a touchdown. The College then responded with a 68-yard touchdown drive of its own to wind down the third quarter. Delaware added a field goal to surpass the century mark, and Webb returned a Delaware punt 91 yards for a touchdown to give the College 21 points.
The Tribe will continue to search for its first win of the season when it hosts Georgia State Saturday.