On a day in which No. 4 William and Mary managed just 171 yards of total offense, punted 11 times and saw its top three quarterbacks on the sidelines, the Tribe played almost flawless power football en route to a 13-3 victory over No. 8 New Hampshire in Durham, N.H.
Due in part to outstanding performances from its defense and special teams and a dominating rushing attack, the College moves its record to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the CAA. New Hampshire falls to 5-4 overall and 3-3 in the conference. The win also allows the Tribe to control its own playoff destiny with just two games remaining on its regular season schedule.
The victory, which featured one of the most dominating defense performances by the Tribe this season, was especially sweet considering the Tribe’s precarious quarterback situation.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brent Caprio made his first colligate start after senior starter Mike Callahan and junior backup Michael Paulus were both injured last week against North Carolina and began well. The first time starter completed 5 of his 10 passes for 30 yards and a 19-yard touchdown strike to senior wideout Chase Hill in the second quarter.
With 8:13 left in the third quarter, however, Head Coach Jimmye Laycock’s worst fears were realized when Caprio went down with an injury, causing the College to bring in junior Terrance Schmand, the fourth-string quarterback. Schmand, who received little work this week in practice, did not attempt a pass and simply handed it off to the Tribe rushing corps.
Junior tailback Jonathan Grimes then assumed the majority of the workload for the offense and performed well, amassing 114 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries.
As a result of the multitude of injuries, the College defense realized that it would be responsible for coming up with big plays and muting any attack New Hampshire mounted.
Defensively, the College managed to hold New Hampshire quarterback R.J. Toman and an explosive Wildcat offense to just 275 total yards. Toman was able to amass yardage, but was never to fully escape the Tribe defense and find the end zone. He completed 26-of his 44 passes for 232 yards and an interception.
While the Tribe passing defense held the Wildcats to minimal gains, the rushing defense was the greatest surprise. A unit that was considered one of the College’s weaknesses earlier this year, the Tribe front four held the UNH rushing attack to a total of 39 yards on 31 carries.
Senior linebacker Evan Francks led the College with 10 tackles, while junior defensive end Marcus Hyde provided two timely sacks and seven solo tackles. Sophomore linebacker Dante Cook and sophomore safety Brian Thompson also contributed eight tackles apiece.
Additionally, junior safety Jake O’Connor provided the College with a huge boost when he intercepted Toman in the end zone at the end of the second quarter, denying the Wildcats six points and allowing the Tribe to take a 6-3 lead into the break.
The Tribe special teams unit also performed well and provided a catalyst for several big plays.
With 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, New Hampshire return specialist Terrence Fox bobbled a punt return, and sophomore linebacker Jabrel Mines recovered the ball for the Tribe at the New Hampshire 35, setting up a Grimes touchdown run that gave the College the final 13-3 margin of victory.
The Tribe will attempt to further solidify its playoff positioning next Saturday when it faces James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va.