DELAWARE – In dominating its previous two opponents, No. 20/23 William & Mary ran the ball virtually at will. Delaware took that away Saturday, and the Tribe had no answer.
That, combined with field position strongly in their favor, led the Blue Hens to a 24-3 win over W&M at Delaware Stadium. The Tribe managed only 105 yards on the ground, 109 below its season average that led the Colonial Athletic Association.
The loss interrupts the William & Mary’s momentum after crushing wins over Towson and No. 4 Villanova. The Tribe (6-3, 4-2) remains in the hunt for a playoff spot, but its margin of error became smaller with Saturday’s loss.
“They out-executed us and outplayed us in a lot of scenarios that we’ve been pretty good at,” W&M coach Mike London said. “They outcoached us and just played harder. We tried to come back in the (second) half, but against a good football team like that, we had our work cut out for us.
“The good thing is, there are ways for us to improve as a football team. Knowing that the next two games are home, we can finish the way these guys deserve.”
W&M was without starting running back Donavyn Lester, who was injured in last week’s win at Villanova. The Tribe still had Bronson Yoder and Malachi Imoh, who were averaging a combined 5.9 yards per carry. Neither was able to find much room Saturday with 78 yards on 22 attempts.
The passing game also struggled as quarterback Darius Wilson completed 12-of-24 passes for 123 yards and was sacked three times.
“There were a couple of times we had guys wide open but didn’t get the ball to them,” London said. “That goes back to us executing. If you’re going to play good teams and play close games, you’ve got to be able to execute those things.”
The final stats were a bid odd. W&M had the edge in total yards (228-201), first downs (14-12), total plays (65-52), and time of possession (31:19-27:49). But there was, as they call it, “the hidden yards.”
Delaware’s three touchdown drives covered a total of 82 yards. The first came after Malachi Imoh fumbled a punt at the Tribe 12-yard line. The second was set up when Delaware snuffed a fourth-and-1 at the W&M 34. The third came after an interception gave the Blue Hens possession at the Tribe 36.
“That was huge,” London said. “It’s critical with the field position when you start a possession on the other side of the 50. You get opportunities for field goals at least.
“They capitalized on those opportunities. We didn’t.”
London’s decision to keep the offense on the field on fourth-and-1 from his 34-yard line came late in the first quarter with Delaware leading 7-3. The Tribe had converted four of five tries on fourth down in its previous two games.
This time, Yoder was stopped for no gain.
“In the past, we’ve done a really good job of getting one yard,” London said. “But they did a good job, and we didn’t do enough.”
Another factor was turnovers. The Tribe had forced 10, eight on interceptions, in its previous two games. It had one takeaway against Delaware, and that came in the fourth quarter with the Blue Hens ahead by three touchdowns.
Things actually started well enough for William & Mary, which picked up three first downs and moved inside the red zone on its first possession. The Tribe ended up settling for Ethan Chang’s 24-yard field goal and added 40 total yards the remainder of the first half.
The Tribe will return to Zable Stadium Saturday to face No. 3 James Madison. W&M’s regular-season finale will be on Nov. 20 against Richmond.
Each game will have plenty on the line.
“Hopefully a lot of people will be there and we can celebrate the fact that this team is not going to quit,” London said. “We’re ready to move on after we get these things corrected.
“You can go over and talk about the things we didn’t do (today). But there are plenty of opportunities to have a measured amount of success.”