William and Mary (2-1, 0-1 CAA) entered its first ever meeting with future CAA foe Old Dominion (1-2) hoping that it could resume its conference schedule next week after leaving Norfolk with a comfortable win against an upstart opponent. Instead, the College trailed for the majority of the game, and withstood a barrage of miscues to escape Norfolk with an unconvincing 21-17 win.
The Tribe trailed 17-14 for the majority of the fourth quarter, before senior tight end Gareth Hissong caught his first ever touchdown reception from senior quarterback Mike Callahan to provide the Tribe with its first come-from-behind win of the young season. The drive was aided by two crucial 15-yard personal fouls against Old Dominion.
“I was impressed with the way we overcame a lot of adversity tonight,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “It seemed like a lot of things were going against us as far as missed field goals, fumbles out of the end zone, mistakes here, mistakes there. I think a lesser team would have hung their heads and felt sorry for themselves, but our guys hung in there, kept plugging away, kept playing hard and we came away with a win.”
While the Tribe happily leaves Norfolk with the victory, the College committed several key miscues which allowed the Monarchs to stay in the game.
The College underperformed in the red zone, converting only 1 of 4 chances within the 20 yard line. Senior kicker David Miller missed all three of his field goal attempts, while senior fullback Jimmy Hobson fumbled a would-be touchdown in the end zone in the third quarter.
“We were just more disappointed in ourselves because we weren’t making the plays we knew we could make,” Callahan said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a few times in the first half, we had that pick, we got down in the red zone a few times and couldn’t capitalize. I wouldn’t say that we were panicking, but we were disappointed because we knew we could play better.”
Old Dominion, who went 9-2 last year in their inaugural season, dominated the first half. The Monarchs, aided by a raucous, sellout crowd of 19,782, consistently halted the College’s offense and made plays of their own, including a 41 yard touchdown romp by Colby Goodwin with 3:06 left in the second quarter which gave ODU a 14-7 advantage heading into the break.
The College regrouped during halftime and the mental break paid immediate dividends, as Callahan found senior wideout Chase Hill for a 55-yard touchdown strike on the first play of the second half, which knotted the score at 14.
After several three-and-outs, Old Dominion’s offense mustered one final scoring drive, as Demarco powered the Monarchs 70 yards down the field, setting up a 20 yard field goal from kicker Jarod Brown.
Although the College seized the lead with less than five minutes to go, Old Dominion still had a chance to capture the upset before junior cornerback B.W. Webb recorded his ninth career interception with 5 seconds left in the game to seal the victory.
Offensively, the College benefited from junior tailback Jonathan Grimes’ first breakout performance of the year. Grimes rushed for 127 yards on 27 carries, including a 30 yard touchdown romp in the second quarter. The senior had his first 100-plus yard rushing performance after being held to an average of 70 yards in his first two games.
“I thought Jon gave a great, great effort tonight,” Laycock said. “He had some holes because they guys up front opened up some stuff. We said going in that we wanted to run the ball, and we have been working on it the past two weeks but we haven’t been as good as we needed to be running the ball. We wanted to balance it up more tonight and I thought Jon did a great job.”
Callahan also played well against the Monarch defense, totaling 290 yards through the air and 2 touchdowns and an interception while completing 21 of his 31 passes. Sophomore tight end Alex Gottlieb was the College’s leading receiver, totaling 57 yards receiving.
Defensively, the College managed to contain the versatile Demarco and the Old Dominion offense. After two lackluster performances, the defensive line limited the Monarchs to 129 rushing yards, including 43 by Goodwin. The Tribe also neutralized Demarco through the air, as the Walter Payton Award Finalist managed to complete 21 of 40 passes for 186 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
After a shaky first half, the Tribe defense played well in the second half, and prevented the Monarchs from gaining any first downs in the third quarter.
“It was tough tonight,” senior linebacker Evan Francks said. “We had a lot of three and outs, but then we had a 34-yard run and a couple missed tackles. We said coming into the game that they like the quick passes, they like running the ball, and if we tackle them, we will be successful, and we didn’t do that early on … But we came out in the second half, and that’s what we focused on, and we did alright.”
Old Dominion committed eight penalties for 100 yards, four of them being personal fouls. While the College certainly commited mistakes of its own, Tribe players and coaches were hope that Old Dominion can learn to reduce the number of personal fouls it commits before the two teams meet again in this budding rivalry.
“If they understand what is good football as far as personal fouls, if they learn about that, then yeah, I’m okay with it,” Laycock said. “But if they don’t learn about hitting late and hitting after the whistle, then no, I’m not.”
The College will attempt to gain its first conference win next week on the road against Maine.