Saturday, Sept. 23, No. 5 William and Mary football (4-0, 2-0 CAA) defeated Maine (0-4, 0-2 CAA) 28-3 at Walter J. Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, Va.
Coming off of a 15-7 away win against Charleston Southern, a game in which the Tribe held CSU to just 77 total yards, head coach Mike London described the importance of staying focused ahead of the Tribe’s match-up against Maine.
“Maine is a tough football team that’s going to come here on Saturday,” London said. “We got to make sure that we are prepared for them and minimize the things they do that could cause us to lose.”
The Tribe entered the matchup as one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Not only leading the country in total defense (187.7) and third down defense (.133), William and Mary ranked fourth in passing defense (112.0), fifth in scoring defense (12.3) and sixth in rushing defense (75.7) heading into Saturday’s contest.
With unfavorable conditions due to tropical storm Ophelia, William and Mary relied on its defense and run game heading into the first interconference game of the season.
Both teams failed to put points on the board in the first quarter, punting the ball back-and-forth to each other on six consecutive drives. Due to the weather conditions, both teams found difficulty with the passing game, forcing the offenses to rely on the run game.
It was not until the start of the second quarter that the Tribe was able to string together a touchdown drive. Following a 65 yard punt from Maine graduate student punter Aidan Cadogan, William and Mary began its drive from the seven-yard line. The Tribe started the drive with several hand-offs to senior running back Bronson Yoder. On a third and four situation after two small gains, Yoder burst through the Maine defense for a 45 yard rush, putting William and Mary at the Maine 42-yard line.
The Tribe handed the ball off three consecutive times to Yoder for a gain of 18 more yards, before giving a nod to junior wide receiver DreSean Kendrick for a one yard rushing gain.
London returned to Yoder, and junior quarterback Darius Wilson fed him the ball four more times. On his 11th rush of the drive, Yoder propelled himself into the endzone for a one yard rush to score a touchdown with 13 minutes, three seconds left in the second quarter. Senior kicker Caden Bonoffski converted the extra point, giving the Tribe a 7-0 lead.
After receiving the ball back, Maine went three-and-out on two short rushes and an incomplete pass, forcing the team to punt the ball away.
The Tribe failed to capitalize on its defensive success, also going three-and-out after a pair of unsuccessful runs from junior running back Malachi Imoh and a five yard completion from Wilson to Imoh that ended short of the first down marker.
On the next drive, Maine finally managed to put points on the board, stringing together a well-balanced drive with a mix of runs and pass completions that resulted in a fourth and goal situation at the William and Mary two-yard line. The Bears chose not to go for it, electing to convert the 20 yard field goal by Maine graduate student kicker Cody Williams with four minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half, cutting the Tribe lead to 7-3.
Both teams failed to tack on more points in the last few minutes of the first half, with William and Mary entering the locker room up 7-3 at halftime.
Maine received the ball at the start of the second half, starting its drive with a three yard rush by Maine freshman running back Tristen Kenan. On the next play, Maine senior quarterback Derek Robertson threw an interception to Tribe senior cornerback Ryan Poole, ending the Bears’ opening drive of the second half. Poole’s 17 yard return off of the interception set William and Mary up in good field position to score at the Maine 12-yard line.
With 14 minutes, six seconds left in the third quarter, the Tribe offense took the field, looking to convert its second touchdown of the game. Returning to the recipe for success from its first touchdown, William and Mary fed the ball to Yoder for five consecutive rushes, until Wilson punched the ball into the endzone for a one-yard rushing touchdown with just over 11 minutes remaining in the third period. Bonoffski converted the extra point, extending the Tribe lead to 14-3.
Maine looked to respond with a score of its own, but was forced to punt the ball away again after six plays. Cadogan punted the ball 43 yards, setting the William and Mary offense at its own 14 yard line.
The Tribe started its offensive drive with a 22 yard completion from Wilson to junior wide receiver JT Mayo, putting the ball at the William and Mary 36-yard line. The Tribe followed that play with a 10 yard rush by Imoh. On the ensuing play, Imoh exploded for a 47 yard run, eventually getting knocked down at the Maine seven-yard line. After another rush by Imoh, the Tribe found itself in a second and goal situation at the Maine two-yard line.
Wilson failed to connect on a pass with Mayo, triggering the coaching staff to take a timeout for the upcoming third and goal situation. Wilson then tried again to connect with Mayo, this time successfully scoring a touchdown with four minutes, 32 seconds left in the third quarter. Bonoffski converted his third extra point of the day, increasing the Tribe lead to 21-3.
Both teams struggled to score until the fourth quarter, with William and Mary’s final touchdown drive beginning at 12 minutes, three seconds in the fourth quarter. After a touchback from Cadogan’s punt, the Tribe offense looked to put away Maine with another touchdown score.
Although the drive suffered an initial setback on a false start penalty by Yoder, a 20 yard run by Wilson on the next play set the offense back on track. An onslaught of runs from Yoder, Wilson and Imoh wore down the Maine defense. However, an unnecessary roughness and offensive holding penalty would stunt William and Mary’s momentum. The offense responded with an 11-yard shot from Wilson to sophomore tight end Trey McDonald, putting the Tribe at the Maine 45-yard line.
William and Mary continued to leverage its run game to chip away yards. With runs from Yoder, Imoh and sophomore running back Martin Lucas, the Tribe offense continued to wear down the Maine defense.
With nine minutes, nine seconds left in the fourth quarter, Yoder sustained an injury on his 25th carry of the game. On his eight yard carry, Yoder took a hard hit up the middle and was taken away by the medical team in an ambulance.
The extent of Yoder’s injury is still unknown at this time, with London specifying it as an upper-body injury.
After the 10 minute delay, the Tribe looked to Lucas to carry the rushing workload, continuing to run down the clock and march down the field. Lucas scored the final Tribe touchdown of the game with just over three minutes remaining in the game. Bonoffski converted his fourth and final extra point of the contest, pushing the William and Mary lead to 28-3.
With the game all but finished, Maine once again punted the ball away on its last drive after another solid defensive effort from the Tribe. At the end of regulation, William and Mary walked away winners by a score of 28-3, improving its undefeated record to 4-0 on the season.
The Tribe’s steadfast defense once again proved why it’s one of the best in the country, holding Maine to only 138 total yards and a field goal. This game is the third consecutive match-up in which William and Mary’s defense did not concede a touchdown.
William and Mary’s run game continued to dominate with 331 rushing yards, and three touchdowns on the ground. This win marks the first time since 2009 that the Tribe has started a season with four consecutive wins.
Yoder was a particular standout, leading the offense with a career-high 163 rushing yards on 25 carries and a touchdown.
Though the offense has several unknowns following Yoder’s injury, London emphasized the next-man-up mentality in the running back room.
“Malachi Imoh has done a really, really good job, and then Martin Lucas has had a chance to go in and is now showing he’s capable as well,” London said. “We’ve got a group of running backs that do a really good job, and we’ve got a good offensive line that does a great job of providing those holes and opportunities.”
Imoh finished with 103 rushing yards on 12 carries, marking the first time since 2019 that two William and Mary players recorded more than 100 rushing yards in the same game.
William and Mary will look to continue its dominant undefeated season against Coastal Athletic Association opponent Elon Saturday, Sept. 30 at Rhodes Stadium in Elon, NC.