WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – William & Mary used an explosive third quarter to down the Bucknell football team, 30-9, Saturday night at Walter J. Zable Stadium in the first meeting between the teams since 1996.
At halftime, the Bison (1-2) trailed by a single point, 10-9, but the Tribe (2-1) scored three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to open up their advantage.
On the opening drive of the contest, the Bison marched to the Tribe 24. Early in the drive, Matt Muh connected with Andrew Podbielski for an 11-yard gain and Joey DeFloria scampered for 11 yards on back-to-back plays. But the Bison were ultimately forced to punt after a false start penalty turned a 3rd and 8 into a 3rd and 13 and Isaiah Stephens sacked Muh for a loss of five yards.
The Tribe carried the momentum from that defensive stand into their first drive, covering 80 yards on eight plays to score the game’s first touchdown. After Nate Evans broke free for a 34-yard rush to set up William & Mary on the Bucknell four-yard line, he capped the drive with a one-yard score.
Early in the second quarter, the Tribe had a prime opportunity to go up by two touchdowns after Jalen Christian returned a punt 48 yards to the Bison 20. On the next play, Jaret Anderson nearly found the end zone, but Mark Pyles and Colin Jonov brought him down a single yard short. The Bucknell defense held fast, with Ben Richard stuffing Anderson short of the goal line and Jon Fox wrapping up Evans for a loss of two yards. After Tommy McKee’s pass to Jalen Christian fell incomplete, William & Mary was forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal with 7:22 on the clock.
The Bison got on the board on their next drive. On the first play, Muh found Podbielski for a 20-yard gain that brought Bucknell to midfield. While it appeared Nate Akins forced Podbielski to fumble the ball, which was picked up by Aaron Swinton and returned for a touchdown, Podbielski’s knee was ruled to have been down after a review.
Three passes later, the Bison were in the red zone. First, Muh found Alan Butler for a 13-yard gain; then, Jack Horan made a sliding catch for a 21-yard gain that advanced Bucknell to the Tribe 16. At the 5:24 mark, Muh found Podbielski in the corner of the end zone for an eight-yard score. Bill Murray blocked the extra point attempt to keep the score 10-6.
After the Bison defense forced William & Mary to go three and out on its next drive, three rushes by DeFloria, including one for 19 yards, brought the offense across midfield. Later, Kyle Kinner made a leaping catch for a 31-yard gain that brought Bucknell to the Tribe’s five-yard line. John Burdick capped that drive with a 33-yard field goal after William & Mary stuffed two rushing attempts and a fumbled snap backed the Bison up to the Tribe 16.
On William & Mary’s second drive of the decisive third quarter, McKee scrambled out of a collapsing pocket to avoid being sacked. He also drew a face mask penalty, which brought the Tribe from their 26 to their 47. McKee then connected with Daniel Kuzjak for a 29-yard gain that advanced William & Mary to the Bison 24. Three plays later, Noah Giles scampered 15 yards for a score.
The Tribe extended their lead to 23-9 less than two minutes later after Nate Atkins forced a fumble, which was returned by Corey Parker 19 yards for a touchdown. William & Mary later brought the score to 30-9 after Tyler Crist capped an eight-play, 60-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown catch with 44 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The third quarter proved to be the difference in the game, as neither team would score again in the fourth.
Muh finished with 155 yards on 15-for-20 passing while John Chiarolanzio entered the game in the fourth quarter and went 7-for-11 for 48 yards. Horan led the team in receiving yards (69) while DeFloria paced the Bison on the ground (62).
Defensively, Chanse Riley and Fox tied for the team lead with eight tackles. Pyles was close behind with seven.
McKee threw for 105 yards on 12-for-17 passing. Evans finished with a game-best 94 rushing yards. Josh Dulaney and Atkins tied for the Tribe lead with seven tackles while six different William & Mary players recorded a sack.
Bucknell returns home to Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 23 to face Sacred Heart at 6 p.m.
Bucknell moved to 48-79-4 all-time in its first road game of the season.
The loss snapped the Bison’s winning streak in their first away game at three.
Bryan Marine blocked the extra point bid on William & Mary’s first third-quarter touchdown. It was the first blocked kick of his collegiate career. He is the first Bison to block an extra point since Alex Jordan blocked one against Holy Cross on Nov. 14, 2015.
Stefone Moore-Green returned the kickoff after William & Mary’s first touchdown 47 yards. It was the longest kickoff return of his career and the longest by a Bison in 2017. Moore-Green finished the game with 92 kickoff return yards, a new career high.
Kinner’s 31-yard reception was four just yards shy of his career long, set at Charleston Southern on Oct. 29, 2016.
At halftime, the Bison held advantages in passing yards (141-40) and total yards (184-121). The Tribe went on to outgain Bucknell, 160-42, in the second half.
This was Bucknell and William & Mary’s first meeting since 1996. That year, the Bison (Patriot League) and Tribe (Yankee Conference) went on to win conference championships.
William & Mary improved to 5-0 all-time against the Bison.