For the second straight season, William and Mary was forced to watch as Richmond kicker Andrew Howard methodically lined up to attempt a game-winning field goal. And just like last year, they could only watch as Howard drilled the kick through the uprights as time expired, touching off a wild celebration on the Richmond bench as the Spiders won another chapter in this ancient rivalry.
This time, the scene was a jam-packed University of Richmond stadium, where Howard hit a 48-yard field goal on the final play of the game to deliver the no. 4 Spiders a dramatic 13-10 victory over the no. 5 Tribe.
“It was a hard-fought game between two good teams, and I think two evenly-matched teams,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “They were able to get the one kick there at the end.”
The win clinched a share of the CAA title for 10-1 Richmond, while ending the College’s regular season at 9-2. The defeat all-but eliminated the Tribe from contention for one of four FCS postseason seeds.
It was a game which lived up to its considerable hype. Matching two of the top defenses in the nation, neither side disappointed, as each squad was held under 300 yards of total offense. The two programs swapped first quarter field goals, before each defense locked down to keep the game tied at three points apiece entering the fourth quarter.
Then the fireworks began. Richmond tailback Justin Forte capped an efficient six-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run to begin the final period. The 10-3 deficit looked insurmountable for the College, which had failed to enter Richmond territory since their early field goal.
But senior quarterback R.J. Archer rallied his stagnant offense, marching the Tribe back down the field to even the score just two minutes later. From his own 40-yard line, Archer dropped back and fired a pass to sophomore wideout Cam Dohse over the middle of the field. Dohse made the catch and then sprinted 60-yards into the end zone to bring the College back to life.
“It was a great throw, R.J. put it where it needed to be, and then it was a foot-race,” Dohse said. “It was a big situation.”
With 12:09 remaining, the game was far from over. The two sides traded possessions, before junior linebacker Wes Steinman set up the College at the Richmond 33-yard line with a diving interception of quarterback Eric Ward.
The Tribe looked in position to go ahead, but a holding penalty backed the squad up 10-yards on the third play of the drive. They stalled with a fourth down and 13 at the 35. Senior kicker Brian Pate came on to attempt a 52-yard field goal, but his kick was just short against a strong wind.
“I was right between [kicking or going for the first down], and if it had not been so [many yards to go],we would have gone for it,” Laycock said. “But it was right at his range. He hit it pretty good, it was just a little bit short.”
That gave the ball back to the Spiders and, after the Tribe defense forced a punt, the College looked to have a chance at the lead again. Archer drove the Tribe into Richmond territory inside the final minute, but was intercepted by cornerback Justin Rogers while attempting to throw to Dohse.
“I looked back at R.J. and I thought I saw him tuck the ball [to run], so I tried to cut up the field [and block],” Dohse said. “I could tell by the way [Rogers’] eyes lit up that the ball was headed that way, but by the time I looked up, it was too late.”
Ward then used two completions to move the Spiders to the Tribe 31, before Howard came on to nail the winning kick.
Despite the loss, the College is a certainty for the FCS postseason, in which they will open next Saturday. But the defeat put the Tribe in danger of being forced to play on the road, and the squad will have to wait until Sunday afternoon to find out its destination.
“This game is pretty much over,” senior defensive end Adrian Tracy said. “We’re going to watch film and prepare for the next game. We find out who we play tomorrow, and we’ll prepare for that.”
That makes this year’s loss much loss heart-wrenching for the Tribe, who’s season-ending 23-20 loss to Richmond last year killed their chances of a postseason bid.
“The good news is, we’re going to get to play again,” Laycock said. “We’re 9-2. A lot of teams around the country wish they were 9-2 and going to the playoffs. It’s quite an accomplishment up to this point by this football team.”