William and Mary can only hope its Homecoming game next week against James Madison will be half as successful as Maine’s was Saturday.
Arguably the best team in the Colonial Athletic Association, No. 14 Maine came into Saturday’s contest with a 5-1 record, the only blemish coming from a 35-21 loss at Northwestern. The Tribe (4-3, CAA 1-2) narrowly missed upset bids against West Virginia and Villanova earlier in the season, but merely served as Homecoming fodder for the Black Bears Saturday, falling 34-20.
“Bottom line was we got beat by a very, very good team today,” head coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I thought Maine came out very well and took it to us from the beginning. We didn’t play very well, that’s for sure.”
The game’s outcome was predictable at the half-way mark: The Black Bears led 24-7, and the Tribe offense showed little sign of being able to surmount the deficit. Even the College’s rousing touchdown before the break only came about due to two opportune Maine penalties which extended the drive.
The twin pillars of the College’s success this season were conspicuously absent Saturday. With star sophomore running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor out with a knee injury, the Tribe’s rushing attack was blunted and garnered 133 yards on the ground, most coming late in the game with no chance of a win. Similarly, Maine’s offense made the Tribe’s normally stellar veteran defense look porous and intimidated. Time and again, Tribe defenders missed open-field tackles against Black Bears skill-position players.
Maine quarterback Marcus Wasilewski led the way for the Black Bears in front of a sold-out Homecoming crowd. Rushing for 71 yards and throwing for 192 yards on a 16-of-22 performance, Wasilewski carved up the Tribe’s defense with his arm and legs. Wasilewski’s passing proficiency was well distributed: Three Maine receivers notched over four completions in the game. Only junior wide receiver Tre McBride could say the same for the Tribe.
“He’s a good quarterback, not only just the fact that he can run and throw,” Laycock said. “He made good decisions in the passing game and didn’t turn it over.”
Increasingly embattled senior quarterback Michael Graham, having started all of the College’s seven games, had his worst statistical outing of the season. His 58 yards throwing were even worse than his total against Villanova, a game in which he didn’t play the entire second half because of concussion symptoms. Graham entered halftime having completed just 2 passes for 23 yards; in short, it was no surprise that the College trailed Maine 24-7 after the first half. Graham’s finest play came late in the third quarter, when he scrambled for 27 yards to set up the Tribe’s second touchdown.
“The offense clearly wasn’t very sharp today,” Laycock said.
Allowing 11.8 points a game, the College entered the contest with No. 1 scoring defense in the CAA. Time and again, however, Maine bullied their way through the Tribe defense en route to easy scores. Maine’s 24 points at halftime tied West Virginia in the season-opener for most points allowed by the College defense in an entire game, a mark quickly surpassed in the third quarter.
In the first possession of the game, Maine set the tempo for what was to follow. Wasilewski’s fumble on the Tribe’s one-yard line was recovered by two Black Bears’ linemen for a touchdown, capping off a four-minute, 80-yard scoring drive.
Maine’s offense kept the Tribe defense off balance, which led to seemingly effortless scores. After a quick Tribe punt, the Black Bears made a return trip to the end zone, an area they familiarized themselves with all game, increasing their advantage to 14-0 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Maine’s lead widened to 24 before the Tribe offense could answer. Freshman tailback Kendell Anderson’s one-yard touchdown run on the heels of a 53-yard drive gave the College some hope heading into halftime — hope that was deflated shortly after the second half got underway.
Two Graham incompletions led to a three-and-out possession for the Tribe to open up proceedings following the break. After Tribe punter John Carpenter sent the ball downfield, the Black Bears picked up right where they left off in the first half. Marching down the gullet of the College defense, their 59-yard touchdown drive was rounded out by a jump-ball heave into the end zone, a contest in which the Tribe secondary lost.
The College would go on to score two more touchdowns, but the possibility of a real comeback was precluded early in the third quarter. Junior running back Keith McBride garnered his first touchdown of the season to kick off the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback Brent Caprio registered the College’s third touchdown of the day with just over a minute left on a short completion to McBride, good for McBride’s third of the season. Entering the game with just over 10 minutes on the clock, Caprio outshined Graham. Similar to the performance against Villanova, Caprio provided an immediate jolt to the Tribe’s offense, throwing for 91 yards. However, Laycock announced Monday that Graham will retain his starting job for next week.
The College will host James Madison next week at 3:30 p.m. for the annual Homecoming game.
Comes after Caprio saw time vs. Maine: "@VAGazetteSports: Jimmye Laycock also confirmed QB Michael Graham is team's starter against JMU."
— Flat Hat Sports (@FlatHatSports) October 21, 2013
Tribe's leading rusher (500 yds, 5 games): "@timpearrelltd: Jimmye Laycock says RB Mikal Abdul-Saboor (knee) "very doubtful" for JMU Sat."
— Flat Hat Sports (@FlatHatSports) October 21, 2013