After 52 minutes of a close contest, the large scoreboard in the south end zone of Zable Stadium summarized the situation perfectly: “TRIBE 17, NEW HAMPSHIRE 17.”
Senior quarterback R.J. Archer broke huddle at his own 28-yard line and began to attempt what he had never had the opportunity to do before — lead the Tribe down the field in the waning minutes of a game to pull out a close victory.
Six minutes and 52 yards later, senior kicker Brian Pate nailed a 37-yard field goal to sink no. 7 New Hampshire and provide Archer and the Tribe with their first come-from-behind victory of the season.
“It’s extremely satisfying,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said.
Although the College has won its share of big games en route to a 9-1 record, it has had little experience playing in close games.
The Tribe opened the season with a 12-point victory over Virginia and hasn’t looked back since. After suffering its only loss of the season to Villanova in October, the Tribe has steamrolled its last four opponents by an average of 24 points per game, including a 31-0 shutout against Towson last week in Williamsburg. The College hadn’t trailed in a game since the first quarter of an Oct. 10 matchup with Northeastern.
Throughout the majority of Saturday’s game, the College played steadily on both sides of the ball and produced familiar results. Sophomore tailback Johnathan Grimes consistently plowed through the New Hampshire defense, including a 54-yard romp in the first quarter. Senior defensive end Adrian Tracy contributed his usual two sacks. Senior defensive end Sean Lissemore and redshirt freshman cornerback B.W. Webb both picked off New Hampshire quarterback R.J. Toman.
However, with 8:52 remaining in a tied game, the events of the preceding 52 minutes were rendered moot. The Tribe was suddenly faced with a difficult test — drive the length of the field with the game on the line.
Offensively, doubters might have wondered if Archer, who had trouble finding his receivers among the New Hampshire coverage, could pilot the College to a crucial victory with the game on the line.
But Archer calmly led the Tribe into position with superior decision-making and patience, firing several key passes and even scrambling to keep the drive alive.
After Archer and the offense drove down to the New Hampshire 20-yard line, observers might have doubted senior Brian Pate’s chances of making a crucial 37-yard field goal. Pate, who missed a 47-yarder and hooked a kickoff out of bounds earlier, had not looked sharp throughout the majority of the game. How would the senior respond to the pressure?
Just fine. Pate’s 37-yarder sailed through the uprights to give the College a three-point advantage.
“I just felt like I hadn’t done my part [before then],” Pate said. “This one looked good from the start. I felt like that was the first time I had done something for the team.”
As the season progresses, the Tribe’s margin for error will gradually decrease The fact that the team demonstrated its ability to hang tough for four quarters with a formidable opponent and come up victorious serves as a good omen for the Tribe’s upcoming matchup with Richmond this weekend, and ultimately for a likely playoff run in late December.
In the game against New Hampshire, the College established a formula for success that could prove to be crucial in the weeks to come.
“We had a positive mindset the whole time,” Tracy said. “They were a big play team, and we had to stop the big plays as best we could. We are a pretty good defense, and we have to play up to our abilities each and every time we go out there. We did that today and came out with a big win.”