Tribe Beats Themselves 24-21 at Rhode Island
To use the cliche that Tribe special teams “weren’t so special” last Saturday, would be unfair to the complete train wreck of a performance witnessed by those at Meade Stadium in Rhode Island. The special teams unit was abysmal and quite frankly the reason the Tribe failed to beat a completely outmatched Rams team. The Tribe missed an extra point, muffed a punt return, and had the final two punts of the game blocked leading to a comeback victory for Rhode Island.
The game started off poorly for the Tribe as Rhode Island drove sixty-nine yards on the first drive of the game and scored a touchdown on a catch and run by tight end Joe Migliarese. However, after a kickoff out of bounds, Jonathan Grimes ran sixty yards on the Tribe’s first play from scrimmage for a touchdown. It was the beginning of a monster day for the All-American running back, who amassed two hundred eight yards on the ground, as he displayed the perfect balance of speed and power, bouncing the ball outside and breaking tackles down the sideline. Unfortunately, the play was tarnished by the first special teams mistake in their comedy of errors, when Drake Kuhn missed the extra point.
It appeared as though Rhode Island was going to score again on the ensuing drive but the Tribe defense stopped a strange fourth down conversion attempt at the William and Mary six yard line. On the play, the Rams lined their offensive line out beyond the left hash, leaving quarterback Bob Bentsen completely unprotected. Being pressured by linebacker Jake Trantin and defensive tackle George Beerhalter, Bentsen’s pass fell harmlessly to the ground. The Tribe then took the ball sixty-six yards to the Rhode Island twenty-eight yard line before Grimes was stuffed on a failed fourth and one conversion attempt. The remainder of the first half defined monotony as the two teams combined to punt six more times in the remaining twelve minutes. There were some points of excitement, such as B. W. Webb’s fumble on a punt return and safety Ivan Tagoe’s interception three plays later, but neither team showed any offensive promise to close out the half.
Then Grimes struck again. This half, he decided to wait until the third play from scrimmage before taking a third and seventeen draw play for eighty-seven yards and a touchdown. He dodged and weaved through Rhode Island defenders while picking up some nice down field blocks before turning on the jets for the last fifty yards of the run. Having seized the lead and momentum, the Tribe played with confidence forcing a turnover on the next Rams possession. Beerhalter made an excellent strip of Bentsen, and an opportunistic Jabrel Mines. The linebacker’s fumble recovery gave the Tribe the ball on the Rhode Island forty-six.
William and Mary drove thirty-seven yards before an uncharacteristic Grimes fumble robbed the Tribe of more points. The defense remained stout forcing a three and out but the offense failed to turn field position into points, with quarterback Brent Caprio eventually throwing a pick on another failed fourth down conversion. The defense held again but the offense simply couldn’t do anything with the ball. When Kuhn went to punt the ball on fourth down, things became much more interesting. Ram linebacker Dave Zocco broke through the punt shield and made a very solid block on Kuhn. Re-energized, Rhode Island drove all the way to the Tribe two yard line before a fourth down plunge by fullback Chris Mancuso gave the Rams the lead.
The Tribe offense responded well, waking up out of their stupor to put together their own touchdown drive. The drive was highlighted by a thirty-six yard catch by wide receiver Ryan Moody and an athletic play by Caprio and tight end Nolan Kearney on the touchdown itself. Caprio faked a pitch, rolled right, and threw the ball to an open Kearney in the end zone while being knocked out of bounds by two Rhode Island players. Kearney, who was also along the sideline, managed to keep his body entirely in bounds, while going to ground to catch the pass. The Tribe went for two and converted for a 21 – 14 lead.
It only took the Rams four plays to respond as they easily tied the game on a quick two minute drive. William and Mary went three and out on their next possession setting up another punt. Linebacker Andrew Bose likely could have snatched the ball out of the air before it even touched Kuhn’s foot as he went through unscathed for the Rams second straight punt block. This set up the game winning field goal with a minute thirty-nine seconds remaining. Even with that time, the Tribe failed to execute on offense and could not overcome the deficit.
The Tribe’s game was plagued by sloppy play, crucial mental errors, and the inability to find the end zone. The frustration came to a head as wide receiver Ryan Woolfolk and coach Jimmye Laycock had a heated verbal spat on the sideline. If the Tribe wants to have any chance of winning the Silver Mace and the Capital Cup, they will have to overcome these stumbling blocks and play more cohesively as a unit. But if the Rhode Island game is any indication, the team is a long way from making that happen.