Tribe blow 18-point lead, outscored 25-3 in the second half for first loss of the season (9-24-22)

By: Joe Dillard Jr.

All Photo Credit: William & Mary Athletics

With the defense bringing up their first third down situation near midfield, the Tribe managed to come up big with a stop causing Elon to punt for the first possession of the game for the Phoenix. In the second possession, the Tribe looked to continue where they left off and went up top to Caleb Newton for a yard touchdown reception giving the Tribe a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter. With third down up again with the Tribe defense, this outcome was different as Elon converted the first down and added on a personal foul by Nate Lynn. Elon continued to move the ball and punched it in with 3:43 left in the first quarter to close the gap to 14-7. On the preceding kickoff, the Tribe fumbled the ball giving Elon a very short field inside the red zone. After a holding penalty on the Phoenix, the Tribe managed to force a fumble and regain possession from a self-unflicked wound. After back-to-back plays with fumbles only the Tribe keeping the ball, they eventually punt to get out of a bad situation to give Elon great field position late in the first quarter.

With Elon starting the second quarter with their third possession in the red zone they managed to hold Elon to a field-goal attempt from 30-yards. After a successful attempt, the Tribe still led 14-10. The Tribe marched right down the field into another RedZone possession to be capped off with a touchdown run by electric running back Malachi Imoh to give the Tribe an 11-point lead of 21-10. The defense came out on a mission forcing a punt to give the Tribe another crack at scoring. The Tribe starts in Elon territory and looking for more as Darius Wilson is cooking going down the field and has nine of his ten completions for 178 and three touchdowns. With this version of the offense, it appears the Tribe has found their balance of run and pass which makes them a hard out. On third down, Matthew McKay threw a beautiful ball to only be dropped giving the Tribe one more shot at points before the half. After a couple of first downs, Wilson throws a hail marry attempt to only be intercepted to end the half. With the Tribe up 28-10, the team looks to play great in all three phases of the game. Coming out from the half the story continued with the Tribe forcing another 3 and out possession. After a booming 65-yard kick trapping the Tribe on the 1-yard line, Elon forces a 3 and out starting the possession in Tribe territory with 11:34 left in the third. After forcing a fourth down the Tribe gave up a long pass on fourth down to extend the drive giving Elon their fourth possession in the RedZone. Four trips and four different results as the Tribe holds on a fourth down stop.

However, the Tribe has not moved the ball at all this third quarter and Wilson fumbled while scrambling giving Elon their 5th possession in the RedZone. After four different results, the Phoenix scores on an 18-yard touchdown pass. After a botched snap and failed attempt, the Tribe led 28-16. After a couple of first downs, the Tribe settled for a 46-yard field goal which was a season’s best for Ethan Chang giving the Tribe a 31-16 lead at the end of three. With the fourth quarter underway, Elon came out with a sense of urgency driving the ball well into the Tribe territory to pull this game within a one-possession game. With 9:04 left in the fourth quarter, Elon scores to bring the game within one score 31-23. Now with it being almost a whole half of struggling to move the ball and get points, William and Mary found themselves with a 2-point lead with 4:43 left in the game after stopping a 2point conversion to give them a chance to close out the game with a strong offensive possession. After what would be some questionable play calls, the Tribe was forced to punt and with 3:33 left to play called on their defense to bring home the victory. After leading by 18 after the first half, it seemed like the Tribe was moving in quicksand and was always one good drive from closing out the game. On what would be the most important third down of the game, Elon draws a false start which made it third down and twelve with 2:38 left. Matthew McKay steps in the pocket and continues to scorch the secondary. Pass after pass getting into the RedZone again for what is well within the range of Elon’s kicker. However, Jalen Hampton runs in a 12-yard touchdown to give the Phoenix their first lead of the game with 1:07 left to play. The 2-point conversion was no good in which Elon has outscored William and Mary 25-3 in the second half. If there is a time to have an important touchdown drive, the Tribe would need to pull out all the plays now. With 75-yards to get in the endzone, the Tribe has a tall task in front of them. After a first down, the Tribe started moving but was called for its first holding call of the game with 23 seconds left. With 5 seconds left and the last play, William and Mary launched a hail marry to only fall short with the first loss of the season 35-31 to a strong Elon program that advances to 3-1. This one may turn out to hurt the Tribe as they were trending to the top ten before this loss. They will have to head out on the road to avenge this loss at Stony brook Saturday at the 3:30 pm kickoff