Football: Tribe picks up huge win in front of home crowd

0
167
JAMIE HOLT // THE FLAT HAT

­William and Mary (2-1) rode a first-quarter offensive explosion to rout Colgate (0-3) 38-10 Saturday, with strong play on both offense and defense keeping momentum on its side throughout.

The Tribe began the game on offense and quickly motored across midfield with three rushes from sophomore running back Owen Wright that gained 36 yards. A quick pass to the left flat from freshman quarterback Hollis Mathis to freshman wide receiver Kane Everson advanced the ball to the Raiders’ two-yard line and a quarterback sneak from Mathis capped the 80-yard drive to put the Tribe up 7-0 with 12:02 remaining in the opening period.

After a touchback, the Tribe forced a Raiders three-and-out courtesy of key tackles from junior defensive end Will Kiely and senior nose tackle Bill Murray. The Tribe started its next drive at its own 31 and progressed into Raider territory via a 23-yard catch and run from Mathis to freshman running back Donavyn Lester. Mathis then lofted a pass to junior wide receiver Zach Burdick to advance to the Raiders’ ten-yard line. The drive stalled at the six-yard line and sophomore kicker Jake Johnston put the Tribe up 10-0 with a field goal that deflected off the right upright and through.

The Raiders mixed runs and passes to cross midfield on their next possession, until a sack by senior linebacker Gavin Johnson forced them into a third down and 13 on their own 49-yard line. They failed to convert and, after almost blocking the punt, the Tribe began its third drive of the evening on its own 29-yard line.

A 49-yard bomb to Burdick advanced the ball into Raiders territory and on the following play, Mathis launched a jump ball into the back of the end zone, which was fought for and caught by junior wide receiver Jordan Lowery to extend the lead to 17-0 as the quarter expired.

The Tribe outgained the Raiders 219-47 in the first quarter and had ten first downs to the Raiders’ two despite running only nine more plays. Mathis threw for 155 yards while averaging 25.8 yards per completion and Wright added 46 rushing yards.

The Raiders began their next drive with a few productive rushes to move into Tribe territory, but an attempt up the middle on third down was snuffed out by sophomore linebacker Trey Watkins and senior linebacker Nate Atkins. However, a roughing the punter penalty gave the Raiders new life at the Tribe’s 34-yard line. After three plays failed to gain any ground, the Raiders’ third punt of the game bounced into the end zone for a touchback.

The Raiders then forced a three-and-out on the following Tribe possession and returned the punt to the Tribe’s 39-yard line. The Raiders proceeded to lose one yard on three plays and downed their own punt on the one-yard line. The Tribe earned a first down, but it was forced into another punt that gave the Raiders the ball on the Tribe’s 43-yard line.

A 29-yard rush by Raiders running back Malik Twyman then advanced the Raiders into the red zone for the first time of the game and a run from quarterback Jake Froschauer was stopped at the three-yard line. The defense forced a third down and goal but a run to the left side from Twyman got the Raiders on the scoreboard, making it 17-7 with under a minute to play in the first half. The Tribe drive advanced nine yards before the half ended.

The Raiders returned the Tribe’s kickoff to their own 32-yard line to begin the second half. After an opening run, an aborted snap pushed the Raiders’ offense into a third down and 16 yards to go, which they converted with a 24-yard pass to reach midfield. They motored down to the Tribe 29-yard line and the defense forced a fourth down with less than a yard to go. A quarterback keeper earned the first down for the Raiders. Kiely’s fifth tackle of the game forced a third and goal at the four-yard line and an incompletion led to a field goal to cut the Tribe lead to seven with 7:16 remaining in the third.

Freshman safety Bronson Yoder fielded the Raiders’ kickoff at his own seven-yard line and proceeded to slice through the Raiders coverage and jet up the sideline all the way to the end zone to make it 24-10 Tribe with 6:59 left in the third. The defense built on the momentum, with senior safety Isaiah Laster picking off a Froschauer deep ball at the Tribe 30-yard line. The Tribe’s drive then stalled and a short punt from Mathis rolled just inside the Raider 30.

The Tribe defense proceeded to force its fourth three-and-out of the game, and regained possession at the its own 19-yard line. An 11-yard dart to Lowery on the right sideline ended the third quarter with a first down on the Tribe’s 31-yard line.

After the frenetic start, the Tribe offense managed just 60 total yards and three first downs in the second and third quarters combined. The Raiders continued to lead the possession battle, logging almost 29 minutes to the Tribe’s 16.

Several Wright runs and a glimpse of the triple option with Mathis and senior running back Albert Funderburke started to regain some momentum in the opening stages of the fourth quarter, powering the offense down to the Raider 37-yard line. More runs and option designs eased into the red zone, and a Funderburke rush to the right advanced inside the 10. On the following play, Wright found a seam up the middle and dashed into the end zone to extend the lead to 31-10 and give him 92 yards rushing on the day.

The defense kept the pressure on, with freshman cornerback Latrelle Smith nabbing the second interception of the game for the Tribe at the Tribe 45-yard line. The offense kept its foot on the gas, with a short pass to Lowery and an option run from Wright advancing to the 26-yard line of the Raiders.

Raiders defensive back Collin Heard proceeded to pick off Mathis in the end zone to set the Raiders up at their own 20 with just over eight minutes remaining. A sack from Murray on second down helped stymie the drive and force the Raiders’ sixth punt of the contest.

The following Tribe drive featured runs straight up the middle of the Raiders’ defense, burning over six minutes of clock and culminating in a two-yard touchdown run for Lester to put the Tribe up 38-10 and start the engine of the Raider bus.

London credited physicality and mental resilience for the Tribe’s win after the game.

“What a great win for us in terms of where we are and see how we can compare against a good FCS program,” London said. “I was very pleased that we played a physical brand of football that could be the mark of what we are, who we are.”

The game plan focused on stopping the Raiders’ rushing attack, which was held to 100 yards on the game.

“It was good to see there was a level of high contact,” London said. “That team was known for running the ball, and we were able to create TFLs, third and long situations, sacks, and were able to run the ball ourselves, and that’s the most positive thing we got out of it. You get better from the second game to this game, now the goal is to get better from this game to the next. Tonight was a good, tough, physical win for this program against a good football team.”

Wright finished with 108 rushing yards on the game and credited the structure behind and in front of him for the season-high total.

“We just want to execute,” Wright said. “Try to make no mistakes, just go out there and put points on the board. We were very effective, we slowed down a little bit before going into half, but second half we came out and just put it on them. I’d just like to thank my linemen, beautiful play calling, but we just have to execute at the end of the day.”

In addition to the physical mentality, one of the biggest turning points in the game, according to London, was Yoder’s kickoff return touchdown after the Raiders had cut the lead to seven.

“It was huge,” London said. “The ability to answer right away; he’d been close a couple times, he has the speed and ability to break it. It was one of those turning points that flipped the field, the score, maybe the momentum of the game as well.”

London hopes to build on the success and momentum as the team begins to face in-conference opponents with a rejuvenated outlook.

“This is a new team,” London said. “Our identity is new, our mindset, our resolve is to be as physical as we need to be, create turnovers, run the ball, and play a lot of players. Moving forward, we just want to keep getting better, keep playing, and put ourselves in the driver’s seat to control our own destiny.”

The Tribe returns to action Sept. 21 in Greenville, North Carolina, where it will take on East Carolina (1-2).