After William and Mary’s home- and conference-opener against Elon was cancelled due to Hurricane Florence, the College played its first game in two weeks against in-state rival James Madison. The Tribe was trying to pull off an upset of the second-ranked team in the country to pick up its first Colonial Athletic Association victory since 2016 against Richmond. The team managed to tame the Dukes’ offense in the first half, but its own offense struggled to move the ball past midfield on most drives. The Tribe (1-2, 0-1 CAA) trailed 17-0 at halftime. Two quick scores allowed the Dukes (3-1, 1-0) to put the game away early in the third quarter and rout the College, 51-0.
The Dukes won the coin toss and elected to defer to receive the second half kickoff, so the College started the game on offense. Sophomore quarterback Shon Mitchell completed two passes on the opening drive, but the Tribe was unable to pick up a first down.
The Dukes also failed to capitalize on their first possession. They moved the ball to the Tribe’s 34-yard line, but kicker Ethan Ratke came up just short on his 51-yard field goal attempt. Later in the first quarter, Ratke missed a much shorter field goal, keeping the game scoreless. The College picked up a first down on its third drive of the game, but the drive was halted on a fumble by senior wide receiver Isaiah Kinder. The Dukes returned the fumble to the College’s nine-yard line and scored three plays later.
The Dukes took advantage of another short field early in the second quarter, doubling their lead to 14-0 with 13:25 to play in the first half. Ratke redeemed himself for two early misses with a 30-yard field goal midway through the second quarter to put the Dukes on top, 17-0. On its last two drives of the first half, the College got inside the Dukes’ 30-yard line, but both possessions ended on failed fourth-down conversions.
The Tribe trailed 17-0 at half, but a couple timely takeaways and missed field goals by the Dukes allowed the College to remain within striking distance. However, the Dukes scored less than five minutes into the third quarter and then scored a defensive touchdown. Cornerback Jimmy Moreland picked Mitchell’s pass off at the Dukes’ 44-yard line and weaved down the field before coasting into the end zone to put the Dukes in front 31-0.
The College did not cross midfield for the rest of the game and the Dukes continued to pile on with two more touchdowns and two field goals. One of the Dukes’ touchdowns came off of another pick-six, this time on an interception by sophomore quarterback Ted Hefter. Hefter entered the game during the fourth quarter for the College, replacing Mitchell. The Tribe ultimately fell 51-0 after the Dukes racked up 34 second-half points.
The Tribe was led by Mitchell’s 70 yards on 12/27 passing. Senior wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon led the College in receiving yards with 29 yards on three receptions. The College only mustered 132 yards of offense, compared to the Dukes’ 444 yards. The Dukes’ high-powered offense was led by quarterback Ben DiNucci’s 160 yards and two touchdowns on 17/23 passing. A deep backfield for the Dukes shredded the College’s defense with 247 rushing yards on 49 attempts. Wide receiver Riley Stapleton had a game-high eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. The Dukes’ defense has only conceded seven points in three games against Football Championship Subdivision teams this season.
Next Saturday, the College will take a break from CAA play with its final non-conference matchup against Colgate. The Tribe will look to bounce back from 40-plus point setbacks to Virginia Tech and James Madison. After three games on the road to start the season, the College’s game against the Raiders will be the Tribe’s home-opener. Kickoff for the Family Weekend game against the Raiders is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sept. 29.