WILLAMSBURG – A year ago, Michael Graham sparked William and Mary to a comeback win in its home opener against New Haven.
The senior couldn't rekindle that magic Saturday night, as Lafayette edged the Tribe 17-14 at Zable Stadium in a showdown of two storied programs.
Instead, it was Lafayette QB Andrew Shoop who played the starring role. The senior completed 18 of 33 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown and made great decisions in the pocket.
After bad field position on its first three drives, Lafayette's offense went to work. The Leopards from Easton, Pa., marched downfield with a nine-play, 69-yard drive that resulted in a 14-yard touchdown run by Vaughn Hebron. The key play came on third-and-1 when the senior back broke three tackles, including an attempt from B.W. Webb at the 2-yard line, to give the Leopards a 7-0 lead with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
As the teams lined up for the ensuing kickoff, lightning was spotted near the stadium, resulting in a delay. The stadium was cleared, and the teams spent the next 80 minutes in their respective locker rooms.
Following the delay, W&M showed some life in the second quarter.
After amassing just 63 yards of offense for most of the half, it was the defense that lit a spark under W&M. Stephen Sinnott stopped Shoop near the line of scrimmage, stripped the ball and recovered the fumble to give W&M a first down from the Lafayette 34.
Three plays later, the W&M offense came to life as Graham found Tre McBride on a 28-yard touchdown pass. McBride used his speed to get some space and then outjumped two defenders to come down with the ball in the end zone. Drake Kuhn converted the extra point to tie the game at 7 with 2:11 left.
Mike Duncan looked to give Lafayette a lead with a nice diving catch in the corner of the end zone, but he was ruled out of bounds. The Tribe defense stopped the Leopards on third down, prompting a field-goal try. Ethan Swerdlow's 31-yard attempt missed far right as the teams went into halftime tied at 7.
Lafayette's defense made its mark late in the third, when Shane Black recovered Mikal Abdul-Saboor's fumble at the W&M 48. The Leopards made good on the opportunity, thanks to a couple of big throws from Shoop.
The senior hooked up with Mark Ross on fourth-and-8 from the W&M 32. Three plays later, Shoop found Duncan over the middle for an 18-yard touchdown on third-and-15 to give Lafayette a 14-7 lead with 3:30 left in the third quarter..
In the fourth quarter, Lafayette extended its lead thanks to an uncharacteristic penalty on special teams. Lafayette was punting on fourth-and-4 after a solid defensive stand. But an illegal substitution penalty was called on W&M prior to the kick, giving the Leopards a first-and-10 from midfield.
Lafayette made good on the opportunity, driving to the W&M 17 before settling for Swerdlow's 34-yard field goal to take a 17-7 lead with 11:52 to play.
In need of a spark, W&M coach Jimmye Laycock benched Graham for sophomore Raphael Ortiz. Graham completed just 7 of 19 passes for 54 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The move didn't work right away as the Tribe went three-and-out and was forced to punt. W&M's defense got the Tribe the ball back for one more try and the unit went to work.
Ortiz guided the Tribe on an eight-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 32-yard touchdown strike to McBride.
The comeback ended there, as Ryan Scheuerman recovered Drake Kuhn's onside kick and Lafayette ran out the clock.
W&M (0-2) will open Colonial Athletic Association play next Saturday by traveling to Unitas Stadium to take on Towson. Game time is noon.