Weber State came to Williamsburg with one of the top offenses in the FCS, scoring over 30 points a game on its way to an at-large playoff bid out of the Big Sky Conference. It didn’t do them much good.
The no. 15 Wildcats ran smack into the William and Mary defense in the opening round of the postseason Saturday at Zable Stadium, and it was Weber State who budged. The no. 6 College held the overmatched visitors to a mere 161 yards of offense on its way to a 38-0 win, advancing to the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2004.
The College’s defense set the tone, allowing minus-six rushing yards while preventing the Wildcats from crossing the Tribe 30-yard line. Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins was harried all afternoon — the College forced the junior into four interceptions, two of which were returned for scores.
“You’ve got two good teams going back and forth, and you see who makes a mistake,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “A lot of times, games are driven by mistakes as opposed to big plays. We made the big plays today.”
The College put the game away with two defensive touchdowns that allowed it to take a 17-0 lead into the halftime break. After a scoreless opening quarter, sophomore linebacker Jake Trantin stepped in front of a Higgins pass in Tribe territory and took it 60-yards to the end zone for the first points of the game.
“[Higgins] overthrew it a little bit, and I was right there,” Trantin said. “I got some key blocks downfield and was able to get into the end zone. It was nice to get a lead like that, but seven points in a game like this wasn’t going to last.”
Nine minutes later the Tribe added to that lead, capping a 72-yard drive with a field goal just before halftime.
Weber State got the ball back with 28 seconds remaining in the first half, and the game looked destined to enter the break 10-0. But the half wasn’t over yet.
On second down, Higgins attempted an ill-advised pass that flew right into the arms of redshirt freshman cornerback B.W. Webb. The first-year starter sprinted 58 yards, untouched, into the end zone with 12 seconds remaining, stunning the visiting Wildcats and putting the College firmly in control.
“We set the tone and made the plays with the pick-sixes,” Laycock said. “I thought B.W. had a heck of a game at corner.”
The Tribe received the second half kickoff and promptly marched downfield in ten plays, taking a 24-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback R.J. Archer.
The offense controlled the football for much of the remainder of the game, allowing the Wildcats only seven minutes, 23 seconds of second half possession. The defense ensured the shutout by forcing three more turnovers.
Webb and senior safety Robert Livingston picked off Higgins twice more, and junior cornerback Ben Cottingham jumped on a late fumble to keep the College in control.
Sophomore tailback Jonathan Grimes racked up 139 yards rushing to set a postseason record for the Tribe, while Archer and junior tailback Terrence Riggins added late touchdown runs.
“It’s always nice to have a defense where you’re not doing well offensively and you’re up 17-0,” Archer said. “We just kept pounding and came out in the second half and got some stuff done on the ground.”
The win extended the College’s season, moving the Tribe into the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs where it will take on third-seeded Southern Illinois next Saturday. The Salukis defeated Eastern Illinois 48-7 in what, along with the College’s win, were the two most lopsided scores of the opening round.
“It’s been a long time coming, and it’s nice to finally be here,” Archer said. “We haven’t experienced [the playoffs] with all the guys that are seniors that I came in with. It’s definitely fun to be here.”