With its 38-17 win over Northeastern University Saturday night, the 12th-ranked College of William and Mary (7-2, 5-1 CAA) has put itself in a favorable position heading into its tough two-game closing schedule.
“It’s neat for us to be back in the mix and to be playing meaningful games in November,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “If you’re a competitor, that’s what you want to be doing.”
The win is the Tribe’s fifth straight since falling 38-28 to Villanova University in the team’s CAA opener. The College now sits in a tie for second place in the conference standings, as it prepares to face CAA leader and national no. 1 James Madison University on the road next, and host no. 7 University of Richmond Nov. 22.
Senior quarterback Jake Phillips threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for one more. With his touchdown throws, he tied and then surpassed Lang Campbell ’04 for third on the College’s all-time touchdown passes list.
Stealing the show from Phillips, however, was fellow captain and senior cornerback Derek Cox, who scored touchdowns on a punt return of 89 yards and an interception return of 12. Cox’s two-touchdown game was his first, he believes, since his sophomore year of high school.
“If it wasn’t my sophomore year, then it was Pop Warner football,” Cox said.
Cox’s punt return got the scoring started for the Tribe, giving the team an early 7-0 lead.
The Huskies stormed back, ripping off a nine-play drive that evened the score at 7-7 after running back Alex Broomfield punched in a touchdown run from 12 yards out.
Northeastern then put together another impressive drive, but missed a 28-yard field goal. That miscue paved the way for the Tribe as senior quarterback Jake Phillips tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to sophomore fullback Jimmy Hobson. The score was set up by a 61-yard bomb from Phillips to junior wideout D.J. McAulay.
After Northeastern converted a field goal, Phillips capped off the first half scoring by throwing a three-yard touchdown to sophomore receiver Chase Hill off a bootleg to his right, giving the College a 21-10 halftime lead. The four-play scoring drive was highlighted by Jonathan Grimes’ 67-yard run, during which the freshman running back took a draw play up the middle and bounced it outside and down the left sideline.
Grimes, who finished with 130 yards on 16 carries, has played so consistently this year that his coach is no longer surprised by the freshman’s accomplishments.
“Actually, I’m kind of surprised when he doesn’t break a few big ones,” Laycock said.
The College came out firing at the start of the second half, going 76 yards on eight plays. Phillips scored on a six-yard run, marking the third consecutive game in which the Tribe has scored on its opening second-half possession.
“We’ve played well in the second half,” Laycock said. “All season long we’ve executed well.”
The Tribe finished off its scoring for the game with a 35-yard field goal by junior Brian Pate and Cox’s interception return.
The Tribe defense, after giving up 278 yards of offense in the first half, clamped down in the second, allowing only 79 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Trantin, filling in for injured senior co-captain Josh Rutter, led the Tribe with 13 tackles, 12 of them being solo.
With just two games remaining, the Tribe is focused less on the overall playoff picture and is instead enjoying the opportunity to be back in the playoff hunt.
“We are where we want to be right now in control of our own destiny,” Phillips said. “It’s nice to be back.”