The College of William and Mary still has progress to make in order to join the FCS elite.
No. 1 James Madison University put more points up against the Tribe Saturday than any other team this season, ending the College’s five-game winning streak in a dominating 48-24 victory.
“They’re a very good team. They executed very well, and we were not able to stop them defensively,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I don’t think we played our best today, but I give a lot of credit to JMU for that.”
The College had no answer for quarterback Rodney Landers and an efficient JMU offense, as the Dukes racked up 540 total yards and scored on eight of 10 possessions. Landers tallied 360 total yards and four touchdowns, leading his squad to the CAA title with the victory.
The Tribe struggled against a quick JMU defense, managing only 294 yards, a good portion of which came after the game had been decided. Senior quarterback Jake Phillips, frequently under heavy pressure, completed 16 of 30 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns to lead the College, while freshman tailback Jonathan Grimes was held to a mere 49 yards rushing on nine carries.
“Their front four really sets the tone for them,” Phillips said. “We went out there and moved the ball a couple times, but we had a couple drops and penalties hurt us.”
For the initial 30 minutes, the Tribe remained tenuously in the game.
With JMU receiving the opening kickoff, Landers capped a 10-play, 63-yard drive with a strike to tight end Mike Caussin for a four-yard touchdown. Then, after the teams traded punts, Landers hit wide receiver Marcus Turner for a 50-yard score shortly into the second quarter putting the Dukes up 14-0.
Phillips rallied his team. After the ensuing JMU kickoff went out of bounds, the senior capped a six-play College drive with a 16-yard touchdown strike to Grimes to pull to 14-7.
Landers again connected with Turner on a long touchdown pass and the teams traded field goals. The College went into the halftime break down 24-10.
“So far this season we’ve been a good second half team, and we were pretty confident going into the second half,” Phillips said. “We were getting the ball first, and if we put a score on the board, we were only down by a touchdown.”
However, the College’s first possession of the third quarter stalled in JMU territory. Facing fourth and five at the Dukes’s 41-yard line, Laycock opted to punt, marking the third time this season the Tribe has not scored on its initial drive of the second half.
JMU responded to the stop by scoring on their next four possessions to pull away decisively and turn the game into a rout. Three straight touchdowns pushed the margin to 45-10, ending the College’s hopes.
A pair of fourth quarter touchdown receptions from sophomore wideout Chase Hill, the second off of a pass from junior backup quarterback R.J. Archer, provided the final Tribe points in garbage time. The game was also marred by the loss of junior defensive end C.J. Herbert to a knee injury in the third quarter. Herbert was unable to return and will likely be out for the season.
“I was surprised we didn’t play better,” Laycock said. “It wasn’t what they did so much as how we played it. I thought that, given what they were doing, that we would play it better.
“I think we can be better. I hope we can.”