Football: Comeback effort falls short; Tribe drops fifth straight game at Maine

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JAMIE HOLT / THE FLAT HAT

William and Mary suffered its fifth defeat in a row Saturday, falling victim to a 24-0 scoring run from Maine (3-5, 1-3 CAA) to lose 34-25. 

The Tribe (2-6, 0-4 CAA) started off strong, taking its opening drive 67 yards on 10 plays to take a 6-0 lead on a sixyard touchdown scamper by freshman quarterback Hollis Mathis, who started his first game at the position in three weeks due to injury. The extra point attempt was blocked by the Black Bears. 

Neither team gained momentum for the remainder of the quarter, punting twice each and ending the period with the Tribe still up 6-0. 

The Black Bears began the second quarter with the ball and motored inside the Tribe red zone with a mix of runs and passes. With 12 minutes, 33 seconds remaining and the ball at the 19, Black Bears quarterback Joe Fagnano tossed an overhand lateral to running back Earnes Edwards, who lofted a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaquan Blair to give the Black Bears a one-point advantage after the extra point. 

Freshman safety Bronson Yoder returned the ensuing kickoff to the Tribe 40-yard line and a 25-yard rush from sophomore running back Owen Wright moved the offense across midfield. Yoder then took a handoff and powered 18 yards down to the Black Bears 4-yard line. On the next play, Yoder ran straight up the middle for the Tribe’s second touchdown of the game, but a two-point conversion attempt failed, making it 12-7 with  9 minutes, 57 seconds left to play in the half. 

The Black Bears wasted no time responding, with a Fagnano pass finding Earns for a 67yard touchdown to earn Maine the lead, 14-12, with 9 minutes, 22 seconds to play.  

Yoder once again gave the Tribe a favorable starting field position at its own 45-yard line. However, a Mathis fumble on a quarterback run set the Black Bears up in Tribe territory to begin their next drive. The Tribe forced a 3rd-and-1 on its own 32-yard line, but a 27-yard rush from running back David Young advanced the Black Bears to the Tribe 5-yard line. Young took it the remaining distance on the following play to make it 21-12 Maine with 6 minutes, 12 seconds left in the half. 

The Tribe offense sputtered on the next series, gaining one yard on three plays and punting to give the Black Bears the ball near midfield as the clock ticked under five minutes in the half. The defense held strong, with a diving pass breakup from freshman cornerback Latrelle Smith forcing a punt. However, a fake punt fooled the coverage team and advanced the Black Bears into Tribe territory with less than two minutes to go.  

The defense stayed in it, with a tackle for loss from sophomore defensive lineman Carl Fowler forcing a 3rd and 12, which became a 3rd and 22 following a holding penalty. The defense sniffed out the following screen pass to force a genuine punt, which senior cornerback Corey Parker blocked to set the College’s offense up at the Maine 29-yard line. Three runs advanced to the Black Bear 20, but time expired before the Tribe could attempt a field goal, ending the half still down nine, 21-12. 

The Black Bears outgained the College 233-141 in the first half and 14915 through the air. 

Maine started the second half on offense, and after a first down run, Fagnano launched another 64-yard bomb to Blair, who streaked through the secondary to extend the Black Bear lead to 28-12 with 14 minutes left in the third. 

The offense once again failed to gain any ground and punted to the Maine 26-yard line. After the Black Bears moved across midfield, the Tribe forced a fourth down and stopped Fagnano inches short on a scramble. Two strong runs from senior running back Albert Funderburke moved the offense within the Maine 40, but several stops from the Maine defense held them there and eventually forced a Funderburke fumble to regain possession.  

Maine engineered a sustained drive to close out the third quarter with a field goal, and the Tribe regained possession down 19 with 14 minutes 51 seconds left in the game. The teams traded punts until the Tribe managed a sustained drive as the clock ticked under 11 minutes to advance near the Black Bear red zone. With 10 minutes, 25 seconds to play, Mathis slipped free for a 16-yard touchdown run, his second of the day, to cut the lead to 31-18. 

The Tribe proceeded to recover an onside kick to regain possession and advanced near midfield. The Black Bears forced a 4th and 11, but Mathis lofted a dime down the sideline that senior wide receiver Zach Burdick hauled in for a 34-yard gain to the Maine 11-yard line. Two plays later, Mathis escaped the Maine pressure and sliced through the defense to cross the goal line for his third score of the day, cutting the deficit to 31-25 with 6 minutes, 59 seconds remaining. 

The Black Bears’ offense proceeded to inch down the field, converting a 3rd and 10 to move deeper into Tribe territory. The defense forced a 3rd and 15, but a facemask penalty gave the Black Bears a first down at the Tribe 9-yard line. The defense forced a field goal, but the additional three points made it a two-possession game, 34-25, with a minute left. The Tribe failed to score again and suffered the nine-point loss to drop its fifth game in a row. 

Head coach Mike London noted that despite the losing streak, the resiliency the team showed bodes well for the future. 

“Another close game that we got to learn how to close out, with how we go about doing things, and that falls on me,” London said. But at the same time, in terms of an effort and a fight and a resiliency of a team, again I’m proud of this team. Obviously having Ws is important, but at the same time the way that no one ever quit, came back, had an opportunity at the end there to do something special, it just wasn’t our day today.” 

Despite the strong rushing day, Mathis struggled through the air, completing just four of 22 attempts. 

“They did a good job of playing back deep,” Mathis said. “And they did a good job of covering us up; they did what we expected them to do, we’ve just got to execute better, have to do better on my part to be able to get us the ball, moving down the fields. It wasn’t anything too unexpected, I wasn’t back there seeing ghosts or anything; I’ve got to do better and get the ball moving.” 

The Tribe will attempt to snap the losing streak next Saturday at Elon at 2 p.m.