By Dave Fairbank
11:49 PM EDT, September 7, 2013
William and Mary’s game plan was old-school simple: Run the ball on offense; stop the run on defense; control the line of scrimmage. Aside from several hiccups, mission accomplished.
The Tribe ran effectively, prevented Hampton from doing so and controlled play for the most part in a 31-7 win Saturday at Zable Stadium.
“By and large, I think it was a good, solid win for us,” Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said. “We played pretty hard. For the most part, I thought we played pretty well. I think it was pretty evident, early on, that our defense was controlling their offense. I think that set the stage.”
Indeed, the Tribe (1-1) held Hampton to 24 net yards rushing on 27 carries, and to 185 yards of total offense. W&M missed its first shutout in three years when HU put together a late scoring drive.
William and Mary’s running back trio of Mikal Abdul-Saboor, Kendell Anderson and Keith McBride combined for 271 yards rushing, three touchdowns and averaged six yards per carry.
That combination removed much of the drama from an infrequent, yet competitive series. W&M has won all four games, but the Peninsula programs hadn’t met since the 2004 playoffs. The previous two games were high-scoring, one-touchdown affairs marked by big plays.
Saturday’s game featured few big plays. William and Mary simply was more efficient and productive.
“We’ve got to find some solutions,” HU coach Donovan Rose said. “Our guys are working too hard. We’ve got to find a strength and concentrate on that. Right now, I’m still trying to find what that is.”
Unlike its opener, Hampton (0-2) held onto the ball. The Pirates committed just one turnover after coughing it up nine times in a 42-9 loss to Western Illinois.
But with its rushing attack stuffed, the burden fell to sophomore quarterback J.J. Williamson and the passing game to make plays. Relying on mostly short slants and sideline routes, he completed 20 of 36 passes for 161 yards, but the Pirates converted only 3 of 17 times on third down.
“The main thing that we were harping on all week was stopping the run, and getting them to pass the ball and making them uncomfortable,” Tribe defensive tackle George Beerhalter said. “We just said, up front, we had to control the line of scrimmage. We didn’t do any exotic blitzes. We really went straight-forward, played our gaps and we were able to stop the run.”
The Tribe also played well defensively in a 24-17 loss at West Virginia in the opener. W&M surrendered 409 yards, but the Mountaineers converted only 2 of 10 times on third down and fought from behind when the Tribe was unable to generate much offense in the second half.
“We’ve got to stay hungry, stay aggressive – keep coming every week, every day. Just trying to get better,” Tribe safety Jerome Couplin said. “We played pretty good the past two games and we’d like to keep it going. Just because we played the past two games well doesn’t mean that in the future we’ll play. We have to keep our alignments, keep our assignments and focus on the little things and doing your job.”
The Tribe got all the scoring it needed on its first two possessions. John Carpenter’s 29-yard field goal and Anderson’s 2-yard run resulted in a 10-0 lead and established a run-heavy game plan.
W&M’s ground game accounted for 51 of the 63 yards on the first scoring drive and 55 of 82 yards on the second. Abdul-Saboor, McBride and Anderson rotated carries, and the Tribe offensive line routinely opened holes and provided seams for the backs.
W&M took advantage of a field position battle late in the second quarter, forcing an HU punt that gave the Tribe the ball at its 48-yard line. A bruising run by Anderson set up a play-action pass, and Michael Graham connected with Sean Ballard for a 41-yard touchdown and 17-0 lead shortly before halftime.
The Tribe took advantage of short fields to tack on its last two touchdowns in the second half, one following a shanked punt, the second after HU’s only turnover. Abdul-Saboor (111 yards) finished the first drive, Anderson (97) the second with short scoring runs.
“One of the things in a game like this we’re going to focus on is coming off the ball and staying low, staying on our blocks and I think we did that pretty well for most of the game,” W&M offensive guard Trevor Springman said. “Obviously, we came out a little flat at the (second) half, which we were disappointed with. But we came back and rallied at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth (quarters). For us, it’s about finishing – finishing blocks and finishing games.”
Graham (9-for-21, 106 yards) wasn’t required to do much heavy lifting, as the Tribe’s passing game was a bit sporadic on both the pitching and catching ends.
“I thought we did alright in protection,” Springman said. “Honestly, the run game was working so well at certain points in the game that we didn’t need to pass it. So on the stat sheet, it might look like it was a little slack, but I think the run game was able to make up for that.”
Hampton gets a break in a road-heavy early schedule, with its home opener next Saturday versus Tennessee Tech.
“We’re probably going to have to go back to the basics and find out what we do well and concentrate on that,” Rose said. “It’s good playing these non-conference games, but for us to get ready for the conference, we’ve got to drastically improve.”
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