Last Saturday, William and Mary didn’t allow a single point for the full 60 minutes against Stony Brook. This weekend, after 15 minutes in its Colonial Athletic Association tussle with Delaware, the Tribe had already allowed two touchdowns. In what turned out to be a tight affair, the Blue Hens prevailed at home 24-23 in the College’s second loss of the season.
“It was a heck of a game,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ‘70 told Tribe Athletics. “We came back in the second half … and put ourselves in a position to win it, but we weren’t able to hold on there at the end. Delaware played well … executed extremely well, and they were able to pull it out at the end.”
The matchup in Newark, Del. on Saturday featured the CAA’s top rushing defense in William and Mary (2-2, 1-1 CAA), as well as the CAA’s top rushing offense in Delaware (2-3, 1-1 CAA). Giving up an average of fewer than 90 yards on the ground per game, the Tribe defense was overmatched against the Blue Hens, allowing 347 rushing yards during the night. Delaware established its dominance in the trenches early and often, opening the game with a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that chewed up over six minutes.
Immediately, the Tribe answered through its special teams unit. Sophomore wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon received the kickoff and sprinted through the middle of the field, shaking off one defender and running untouched the rest of the way into the end zone, returning the kickoff 89 yards to tie the game 7-7.
Special teams then gave the lead back to the Blue Hens at the end of the first quarter. After a Tribe three and out, junior punter Hunter Windmuller lined up to kick the ball away. Delaware defensive back Ryan Torzsa burst through the line unobstructed and blocked the punt, injuring Windmuller on the play. The ball rolled into the Tribe’s end zone and was pounced on by Blue Hen linebacker Que’Shawn Jenkins, putting the Blue Hens ahead 14-7.
Delaware continued to control time of possession, keeping the ball for 22:56 in the first half compared to the Tribe’s meager 7:04. Junior quarterback Steve Cluely and the offense failed to generate any lasting drives, racking up just 101 yards as the Blue Hen defense forced two more punts and recovered a Cluley fumble in the second quarter. The College defense bent but did not break, giving up 244 yards of offense in the first half but only the 14 first quarter points. After the game Laycock commented on Delaware’s impressive offensive display.
“They just executed really well,” Laycock told Tribe Athletics. “We didn’t get off blocks, we didn’t run, explode to the ball, stuff like that … it wasn’t anything crazy.”
The College received the ball to start the second half and began to establish its own ground game. With first stringer senior running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor sidelined due to an ankle injury, the rushing duties fell to running backs junior Kendell Anderson and sophomore Jonathan Dunn. The backfield duo picked up all 54 yards on the Tribe’s first drive of the half, which culminated in a 30-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Nick Dorka, Jr., reducing the Blue Hens’ lead to four with the score at 14-10.
After Delaware turned the ball over on downs, the Tribe struck again to take its first lead. Cluley tossed a quick screen pass out to Dedmon, and Dedmon did the rest, scampering 57 yards and diving over the goaline to put the College ahead. The defense began to string together stops, and Dorka added a career-long 47-yard field goal, as well as a 35-yarder to give the Tribe a 23-14 lead with 12 minutes left to play.
“We moved it around a little bit, got the ball to DeVonte again, that was pretty nice,” Laycock told Tribe Athletics. “But … even when we were doing that we’d get stopped and have to settle for field goals, and I wasn’t satisfied with that.”
The College’s failure to get into the end zone on its scoring drives came back to haunt it, as the Blue Hens’ running game ramped up again. A 12-play, 88-yard drive following Dorka’s third field goal resulted in a Delaware touchdown, trimming the Tribe lead to two. Delaware running back Thomas Jefferson did most of the damage, picking up 68 of his game-high 174 rushing yards on the drive.
William and Mary was unable to stretch the lead, failing to get past its own 23-yard line on its final offensive drive. After Dorka’s third punt of the game with 5:21 left, the Blue Hens marched down the field, running the ball repeatedly, and finally halting at the Tribe 12-yard line with four seconds on the clock. Delaware kicker Frank Raggo stuck his 29-yard field goal through the uprights, and Delaware celebrated the 24-23 upset.
“A lot of positives out of it,” Laycock told Tribe Athletics. “But again, we didn’t play certainly how we’re capable of playing.”
The College continues its conference slate next Saturday, facing CAA rival No. 14/17 Villanova on the road at noon. The game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.