Everyone has their dirty little secrets.
For the majority of the 2010 season, No. 4 William and Mary’s dirty little secret has been that despite its ranking as one of the top defenses in the country, the Tribe’s run defense is susceptible.
The College’s dirty little secret was certainly exposed Saturday, as Georgia Southern’s powerful triple option attack trampled the College (8-4), amassing 423 yards on the ground en route to delivering a crushing, season ending 31-15 defeat in the second round of the FCS Playoffs in Williamsburg.
“I’m disappointed with the outcome,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I’m disappointed with the way we played. We obviously had some issues defensively with the option, but we let some of that compound into not tackling well.”
Senior quarterback Mike Callahan completed 16 of 34 passes for 113 yards and junior tailback Jonathan Grimes racked up 100 yards on 14 carries, but a barrage of miscues held the College from scoring any points in the second half. Most of the Tribe’s offense came in the first half, as Georgia Southern dominated the time of the possession in the second half.
“We just didn’t play particularly well,” Laycock said. “You have to credit some of it to the option, and give credit to them too, they do a good job coming off of the ball hard and they block well. But we have seen people who run hard and block well before and we have play better. We just didn’t rise up to play.”
The game did not start particularly well for the Tribe. Callahan and the offense went three-and-out, and then allowed a huge gain to the Georgia Southern option attack. Quarterback Jaybo Shaw took it for what initially looked like a quarterback keeper, but then flipped it to tailback Robert Brown, who evaded the Tribe defense and rambled for a 45 yard run, setting up a touchdown four plays later.
Brown credited his offensive line for his strong day on the ground. The true freshman gained 178 yards on the ground and his play was one of the greatest reasons Georgia Southern was able to gain 423 yards, the most the College has given up since Furman gained 509 yards on Sept. 18, 1999.
After finding itself down by seven after just four minutes of play, the College began to mount a comeback, and two consecutive drives resulted in field goals.
After the Eagles scored another touchdown on a quarterback sneak by Shaw, the Tribe found itself down by a 14-6 margin, and desperately needed a spark to keep pace with Georgia Southern.
Senior linebacker Evan Francks provided that spark with his first career interception return for a touchdown off of an ill advised pass by Shaw. That, with a 33-yard field goal from Kuhn with 1:13 to play in the half gave the Tribe a 15-14 halftime lead.
Despite finding itself down for the first time all afternoon, Georgia Southern refused to yield. The Eagles came out firing in their first possession of the second half, as tailback Darreion Robinson broke through the Tribe defense and ran for 44 on the first play of the third quarter, setting up an 18-yard touchdown scramble by Shaw four plays later.
“In both halves, they started off with a drive that ended with a score, and it hurt,” Laycock said.
The College looked like it would mount an immediate comeback, but a 40 yard completion from Callahan to sophomore wideout Ryan Moody was negated by a holding penalty, and the Tribe was forced to punt.
“Offensively, we just had trouble getting in a rhythm, whether it was caused by a dropped pass here or a penalty there, we just had trouble playing how we normally play,” Laycock said.
The Eagles then took the ball back at the start of the fourth quarter, and had yet another methodical drive powered by their option offense, which ended in another touchdown run by Shaw. The score, which was Shaw’s third of the day, gave the Eagles a 31-15 lead which they would never fully relinquish.
The College’s defensive rush was thoroughly worn down in the second half, as the Eagles used its option attack to perfection to score 17 unanswered points and eat up plenty of clock.
The loss marks the end of a season in which the Tribe overcame a barrage of injuries to capture the CAA crown.
“This doesn’t take away from what we have accomplished this season, given our situation in preseason with what we had and didn’t have and who we had to play,” Laycock said. “One of the bad things about the playoffs is that only one team ends the season with a win … but looking back, I think we have accomplished a great deal as conference champions and that won’t ever change.”