Football: Despite strong defensive effort, Tribe falls 19-7 at ECU

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JAMIE HOLT / THE FLAT HAT

William and Mary dropped to 2-2 on the season with a 19-7 loss to Football Bowl Subdivision opponent East Carolina Saturday, with a lack of offensive efficiency overshadowing a defensive effort that ceded only one touchdown. 

The game marked the first season since 1991 in which the Tribe took on multiple FBS teams, having already faced Virginia this season. 

The Tribe fell behind early, with the Pirates scoring a touchdown on their opening drive and seizing the momentum early in the game. The teams traded scoreless drives until halfway through the second quarter, when Tribe junior fullback Tyler Crist burst up the middle for a 20-yard score to tie it up. A Pirate field goal with six minutes left made it 10-7 at halftime. 

The second half was all Pirates, however, and despite the Tribe defense keeping them out of the end zone, three unanswered field goals sealed the game and a .500 record for the College through four games. 

“You hate to lose, but I thought our guys played hard,” head coach Mike London said to Tribe Athletics. “I thought our guys played against an FBS team that tried to ground-and-pound us a bit. We only gave up one touchdown, and we made them kick field goals, but it wasn’t enough.” 

The Pirates totaled 480 yards to the Tribe’s 260 and earned 148 more rushing yards on the day. The College’s defense did its part to keep the Pirates in check, accumulating three sacks and seven tackles for loss despite not forcing a Pirate turnover. Senior safety Isaiah Laster earned 10 tackles to lead the Tribe and senior linebacker Gavin Johnson added nine. Sophomore defensive end Carl Fowler and junior defensive end Will Kiely also recorded sacks on Pirate quarterback Holton Ahlers, who threw for 210 yards and a touchdown on the day. 

“We didn’t get any turnovers today, and that’s been sort of our calling card,” London said to Tribe Athletics. “Our kids played hard today, I’ll tell you, our guys played hard, but you try to glean something positive from things like this. You want to win the game, and at halftime we felt really good.” 

However, a failure to convert on third down (5-for-14) and fourth down (0-for-3) stymied the offense’s efforts to get back into the game. Freshman wide receiver Kane Everson posted five receptions for 42 yards and junior wideout Zach Burdick added four for 31 yards. Anderson totaled 94 yards through the air on 10 completions and Mathis added three completions for 44 yards. 

The Tribe started freshman quarterback Hollis Mathis for the opening stages, but switched to graduate transfer Kilton Anderson and a more pass-oriented attack after Mathis injured his shoulder. Mathis’ status moving into next week and beyond has not been announced. 

The Tribe will return to action next Saturday, Sept. 28th in its Colonial Athletic Association opener when it takes on Albany in Albany, New York.