A week after being dealt a tough road loss to North Carolina State University, the College of William and Mary returned home Saturday night in search of its first victory. In front of 10,624 fans, the Tribe ran roughshod over Virginia Military Institute, downing the Keydets 52-17 to improve its record to 1-1.
After overcoming a pair of early interceptions, the College rebounded to post 21 straight points, relieving Zable stadium of any lingering suspense on their way to a 24-3 halftime advantage.
“When we weren’t beating ourselves, we were pretty good today,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said.
Powered by the running back tandem of sophomore Terrence Riggins and freshman Jonathan Grimes, the College racked up 398 yards on the ground, while senior quarterback Jake Phillips chipped in for 13 of 18 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Despite the final margin, the contest began erratically for the Tribe. After the defense forced a three and out on the Keydet’s initial possession, the College’s offense took over deep in its own territory. On the unit’s third play from scrimmage, senior wide receiver Elliott Mack broke free on a deep route, but Phillips’ throw fell short of its target, resulting in the senior quarterback’s third interception of the season.
On the Tribe’s next offensive possession, the Keydet defense came up with a second big turnover, as a Phillips pass was tipped at the line and fell into the hands of linebacker Kyle Nikmard.
However, a swarming Tribe defense repeatedly stifled VMI’s option offense and Laycock turned to his running game to put the College on the board.
With one minute and 51 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Grimes took a handoff around the right side and bounced off several tacklers on his way to a 29-yard touchdown run.
Several minutes later, Phillips found junior tight end Rob Varno at the goal line to put the Tribe up 14-0 and the rout was on.
Throughout the night the College’s sturdy offensive line dominated the undersized VMI front four, opening up massive running lanes for the Tribe’s backs. Riggins, the game’s leading rusher, piled up 180 yards on 15 carries, including a 53-yard ramble off the left end to open the second half.
“I had fun out there,” Riggins said. “The line was blocking really well. The receivers were blocking really well, too, and that gives you the extra edge.”
Defensively, the College followed up last week’s strong showing, by holding the Keydets to a mere 287
yards of total offense. Junior safety David Caldwell was everywhere, notching 10 tackles and forcing and recovering a fumble. Senior cornerback Derek Cox routinely disrupted the VMI running game while recording six tackles, two for a loss.
“VMI is one of those teams that when you play against them, you really don’t have to play real fast, you just have to play right.” Cox said.
“We didn’t want them to score 17 points, we wanted to hold them to zero.”