WILLIAMSBURG — Despite a frustrating season in full bloom, William and Mary isn't always in what-do-we-have-to-lose, four-down territory. Coach Jimmye Laycock's gambler side Saturday was more a product of breakdowns in all areas against a resourceful opponent.
Fake punts and sporadic big plays couldn't overcome spotty execution, as Maine dealt the Tribe a 24-10 homecoming headache Saturday at Zable Stadium.
"We practiced real well this week," Tribe safety Jerome Couplin III said. "We came into the game very focused. We were very prepared. I can't say that we came out slow, per se, all I can say is that team executed well and we didn't, and you can see the outcome."
William and Mary experienced a buffet line of issues. The Tribe (2-6, 1-4 CAA) offense converted only 1 of 3 chances in the red zone, as quarterback Raphael Ortiz was rusty and the running game was unable to sustain a consistent push.
Maine (3-5, 2-3 CAA) scored on its first three possessions for a 17-0 jump start, repeatedly gashing the Tribe defense with screen passes and timely runs.
W&M had placekicking problems, as ailing Drake Kuhn missed field goals of 34 and 29 yards in the first half that would have kept the Tribe within striking distance and provided at least a bit of offensive momentum.
William and Mary, one of the nation's least penalized teams, was flagged eight times for 68 yards.
"We're not going to pitch shutouts in this league," Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said. "To hold this team to 10 points, at their place, on homecoming, coming off a bye, I'll take that any day of the week and twice on Sunday."
Despite its problems facing a fellow lower-tier CAA team, the Tribe still was within 17-10 early in the fourth quarter. A clock-eating drive that started at its 1-yard line resulted in John Carpenter's 32-yard field goal on the second play of the period.
On that drive, the Tribe converted a 3rd-and-9 from its 2, a 4th-and-1 from its 35, a fake punt on 4th-and-11 from the Maine 42 (linebacker Luke Rhodes took a direct snap and hustled 17 yards for a first down) and a 4th-and-15 from the 30 (the result of a Maine pass interference penalty).
"The way things were going, we're trying to pull out all stops," Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said. "We had the fake punt, and that stuff, too. … We weren't playing great on defense. The fact is, you better try to get some points when you get the ball in those types of games like that."
Indeed, in need of a defensive stop, Maine responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive, its first points since early in the second quarter. Quarterback Marcus Wasilewski (19-for-24 for 191 yards with three TDs and one interception) connected with Damarr Aultman, who made a leaping, restaurant-quality catch at the near right pylon on 3rd-and-goal from the 3-yard line.
"Obviously, it's execution," Couplin said. "Running to the ball, tackling. We had some missed tackles. We didn't run to the ball as well. That's what happened with the screens. Screens busted open for 40, 50 yards or whatever it may be, because of that. If people are not running to the ball, people are not leveraging the ball the right way, it affects the whole defense."
Said Laycock: "You can't just depend on one guy coming off a block and making a play. We've got to have people running to the ball better. For one reason or another, we didn't."
On the offensive side, Ortiz had missed most of the previous two weeks of practice due to the effects of a shoulder injury he suffered at James Madison. He was 11-for-23 for 142 yards and one touchdown, a 26-yard hookup with Sean Ballard in the second quarter.
Ortiz gave way to Brent Caprio in the fourth quarter after landing on the shoulder and re-aggravating the injury. Laycock didn't know the extent of the injury or Ortiz' availability heading into next week's game at New Hampshire.
Keith McBride (85 yards) led a rushing attack that netted 138 yards, not productive enough given the opponent or the quality of the offensive line and backs.
"I thought we could have executed better, totally, as an offense," McBride said. "I felt like on some plays we were close. We might have 10 guys doing the right thing and one guy might miss a block or I might miss a cut. It was just so close, I felt like the whole game."
William and Mary now prepares for a three-week gauntlet of nationally-ranked opponents: at New Hampshire, at Old Dominion and home against Richmond. The Tribe's 2-6 record is its worst at this point of the season since 2006.
"It was definitely a tough loss," McBride said. "We had a good week of practice. Our confidence was high going into the game. And for us to come out and perform this way is disappointing. It's going to hurt. We'll regroup and we'll come out and we'll look to play well next week."