For the third straight week, the College of William and Mary (5-2, 3-1) emerged victorious in a conference game, downing the University of Rhode Island (2-7, 0-5) on Homecoming 34-24, behind 249 total yards and a touchdown from senior quarterback Jake Phillips.
Playing through a light rain, the Tribe overcame a lackluster first half in which it was outgained 212 to 115 in offensive yardage.
“It wasn’t the prettiest win by any means, but I think we did what we had to do to get a win,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said.
The game began badly for the Tribe as Rhode Island’s offense spread the College’s defense out and controlled possession for over 20 minutes. Quarterback Derek Cassidy continually kept a College defense off-balance with a mixture of short passes and designed quarterback runs as the Rams built a 10-7 halftime advantage, converting five of seven third-down plays.
A leaping, second-quarter interception in the Tribe end zone by redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Trantin kept the College within a possession at the half. The Tribe roared back in the second, running off 14 straight points to open the third quarter and take control of the game.
“[The interception] was huge,” junior defensive end Adrian Tracy said. “It was a momentum shifter.”
Five minutes into the fourth quarter, junior safety David Caldwell returned an interception 62 yards for a score on a play, which was hotly contested by the Rams’ coaching staff. It appeared as though senior linebacker
Michael Pigram hit the intended receiver early, but the officials ruled the ball uncatchable, nullifying any potential pass interference penalty. The touchdown gave the Tribe a lead that the Rams could not overcome.
Despite the comfortable final margin, the College was again forced to play from behind at the start of the second half, something it has had to do frequently in recent weeks. Luckily for the Tribe, that halftime deficit would not last long.
After the Tribe received the second half kickoff, Phillips drove his squad 65 yards down the field in four plays, hitting junior wide receiver D.J. McAulay on a well-executed, 18-yard fade route to give the College a lead which it would not relinquish.
“We came out for the second half and knew we were getting the ball and everyone on the team just set their mind to it that we were going to go down there and score,” Phillips said. “We came out pretty motivated.”
The win was marred, however, by a second-quarter knee injury to senior wide receiver Elliott Mack, one of the team’s most influential and vocal leaders.
“You don’t want to see a guy go down, and especially Elliott because he is such an impact player,” Phillips said.
Despite the uninspired performance, the Tribe could only be happy with the victory.
“It’s kind of a feeling of relief that we got away with one,” Laycock said. “We could have been upset today. Things could have gone the other way, but we made some plays here and there and came back [and won].”
The Tribe’s returns to the field this Saturday when they travel to Towson, Md. to take on the University of Towson.
Last season, the Tigers fell to the Tribe 27-22 when a last minute drive stalled at the College’s 14 yard line.
Towson enters the contest with a 3-5 ledger and is 1-3 in the CAA. The Tigers lone conference win came in a 37-32 victory over URI three weeks ago.