William and Mary bounced back from its season-opening loss at Virginia Saturday with a dominant 24-7 victory over Virginia Military Institute.
Controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and winning the battle for field position proved key for the Tribe, as senior running back Jonathan Grimes’s touchdown reception and rushing score helped the College to its first win of the 2011 season.
“I thought we were very efficient today,” head coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I wanted to run the football and on defense I wanted to get turnovers and I thought we did both of those very well.”
It looked as though the Tribe, a heavy favorite given that it won the last 24 meetings with the Keydets, could be headed for trouble early, as senior quarterback Mike Paulus continued to struggle with his accuracy and convert third down chances. Coming off a tough performance last week in Charlottesville, Paulus consistently missed high on short throws to the flats.
At the end of the first quarter, the game was scoreless. But the Tribe struck quickly in the second, as Paulus hit Grimes out of the backfield for a six-yard touchdown pass, capping off a 13-play, 75-yard drive.
The game for a time became the Marcus Hyde show. The senior defensive end upended VMI’s tailback on a 4th and 1 for no gain, and later blocked a punt and intercepted a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage.
“I was not attacking as much at all [last week at Virginia],” Hyde said. “I was more prepared this time. I was ready to go.”
It took just five plays for the College to strike again with under two minutes left in the first half. Paulus, who finished the game 11 of 20 for 141 yards and a touchdown, made his best throw on a 34-yard fade to senior wide receiver Ryan Woolfolk, who was streaking down the sideline, setting the offense up at the VMI yard line. One play later, freshman running back Keith McBride punched it in to give the College a 14-0 lead going into the half.
From Charlottesville to Lexington, the performances from both offense and defense were like day and night. After throwing for just 35 yards against Virginia, Paulus turned in a solid performance against VMI, going 11 of 20 for 141 yards and a touchdown. Laycock attributed some of his success to the way the staff simplified the game plan.
“We cut down the game plan quite a bit. Just trying to help the quarterback out a bit and just run the ball more,” Laycock said. “We didn’t have a particularly good game at the quarterback position last week. I thought Mike [Paulus] did a good job.”
Defensively, the contrast from Virginia was stark as well. The Tribe forced the Keydets to turn the ball over twice after forcing none against UVa.
“We gave up the short stuff, which we knew we were going to do but I thought for the most part we played well,”Laycock said. “We got turnovers and we tackled much better.”
The last phase excelled for the Tribe as well. Aside from Hyde’s punt block, the College dominated the field position battle, as sophomore punter Drake Kuhn pinned the Keydets inside their 20 yard line three times.
“That’s huge,” senior linebacker Jake Trantin said. “The special teams is always the first player on defense.”
The College quickly dashed hopes of a comeback in the third quarter. Hyde’s interception gave the Tribe the ball on VMI’s 10, and two Grimes rushes later, the College had a 21-0 lead. Grimes’s two touchdowns bookended his 21 carries for 90 yards.
Grimes was happy to see the backs get so much work against the Keydets.
“We ran the ball a lot more and our run opened up the pass game,” he said, adding that there was little carryover from the shellacking the team took in Charlottesville. “After Sunday we watched the game film and we kind of put it behind us.”
The Tribe will return to Williamsburg next Saturday to take on New Haven in its home opener.