After years and years of finding themselves somewhere in the top half of the Atlantic 10, William & Mary is now getting to see how the other half lives. A 24-17 loss to the Dukes of JMU on Saturday dropped the team to 0-4 in the league, 1-5 overall, and into the cellar of the A-10.
After electing to receive the opening kickoff, the Tribe marched down the field, keeping the ball on the ground for the most part, before finally stalling at the Duke’s four-yard line. On both second and third down, Junior quarterback Lang Campbell heaved passes into the end zone to tightly covered Tribe receivers who were unable to come away with the ball. William & Mary settled for a 21 yard field goal from Greg Kuehne and took an early 3-0 lead. On the second play of the following drive, the Dukes called a play action pass that caught Tribe cornerback Richard Riley sleeping. JMU’s D.D. Boxley hauled in a 53 yard strike down to the Tribe’s one-yard line, and the Dukes would pound it in on the next play. On the first play of their next drive, the Tribe showed JMU that they weren’t the only ones who could throw the deep ball, as a high spiral from Campbell found its way to senior wideout Rich Musinski deep down the field, and resulted in a magnificent juggling, one-handed catch for 54 yards. Again deep in JMU territory, the Tribe offense withered. Another Kuehne field goal brought the Tribe within a point at 7-6.
It would remain that way until the 2:07 mark in the first quarter, when a long punt by the Tribe’s Mike Mesi was field by JMU’s Cortez Thompson at his own 30 yard line. After initially breaking up the middle, he burst to the outside and went down the sideline untouched for a 70 yard touchdown. Now trailing 14-6, a Steven Hargrove return gave the Tribe the ball at their own 33 yard line. 10 plays and 67 yards later, Lang Campbell found junior wideout Dominique Thompson across the middle of the end zone for an 8 yard touchdown, the first of his career. Electing to go for two, Campbell scrambled in from the two yard line, tying the score at 14. After trading possessions, JMU began a 16 play 80 yard drive that would result in an 11 yard touchdown run with only 32 seconds left in the half. A personal foul by JMU after the touchdown run afforded the Tribe great field position, and Kuehne’s 3rd field goal of the half cut JMU’s lead to 21-17 going into halftime.
In the second half, JMU and the Tribe traded jabs, like two heavyweights circling each other in the ring, reluctant to risk throwing a knockout punch. Cautious play calls, turnovers, and punts dominated the second half, and the only scoring would be a JMU field goal with a little more than a minute to go. A last-gasp attempt by the Tribe fell short on JMU’s 25 yard line, as Musinski was brought down as time expired.
The Tribe defense held JMU to only 309 yards of offense on the day and 17 offensive points, by far their best effort of the season. They were led by senior linebacker Paul Carpenter, who recorded 14 tackles on the day, and sophomore linebacker Travis McLaurin, who had 11 stops, including a tackle for a loss as well as a sack. The D was consistently able to apply pressure to JMU quarterback Matt Lezotte, and sacked him five times on the day, with sophomore defensive end Adam O’Connor recording two.
Offensively, senior wideout Rich Musinski recorded his 19th career 100-yard receiving game as he pulled in 10 passes for 137 yards. A first quarter reception was his 191st in a Tribe uniform, passing Dave Conklin as the team’s all-time leading receiver. Campbell continued to put up big numbers, completing 22 of his 37 attempts for 258 yards and a touchdown. Despite outgaining the Dukes 372-309, the Tribe fell short yet again, bringing their record to 1-5 on the year. Next Saturday, the Tribe will travel to Rhode Island to do battle with the Rhode Island Rams, who were destroyed this week by Delaware 55-10. Kickoff is at noon.