Powered by senior running back Jonathan Grimes’ record-setting day and opportunistic defensive play, William and Mary bounced back from its shutout loss last week to score a commanding 24-10 win over CAA-rival New Hampshire at home, moving the Tribe (4-3, 2-2 CAA) back into the thick of the playoff hunt with four games left.
Grimes’ 169 rushing yards on 28 carries made him the College’s all-time leading rusher, while his 323 all-purpose yards were just one short of the school’s single-game record — his as well — and his two long touchdown catches made the difference in the game.
“We bounced back and got some turnovers and we just got the running game going really well,” head coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I couldn’t be happier for our players. Last week was disappointing but hey, this week, it’s great.”
Senior defensive end Marcus Hyde set some records of his own, leading the way for a defense whose four takeaways were the key to holding the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1 CAA) to just 10 points despite their 517 yards of total offense. Hyde set the school single-game sacks record before halftime, finishing with five sacks and nine tackles, consistently dominating New Hampshire lineman Walter McCarthy.
“I watched last year’s film,” Hyde said. “I know some of the moves that I do best work great against him. The secondary did a great job covering back there, they gave me a little more time than I needed. I just rushed him all day, I just wanted it more than that kid I guess.”
Junior linebacker Jabrel Mines logged a team-high 13 tackles, forcing and recovering a fumble in the first quarter.
Early on, it looked like the offensive struggles would continue for the College (the team entered averaging just 12.3 points per game). Sophomore quarterback Brent Caprio became the third quarterback to make a start for the Tribe this year with sophomore quarterback Mike Graham sidelined due to illness.
Grimes ran well from the beginning, but with the offense marching down the field on its first possession Caprio threw an interception at the New Hampshire 10. The Wildcats returned the favor, though, when Mines knocked the ball loose from running back Dontra Peters at the Tribe’s 27 yard line and made the recovery.
But Caprio couldn’t lead the offense on another long drive, and the first quarter closed with the game scoreless.
The Wildcats would threaten at the start of the second, as quarterback Kevin Decker moved the ball through the air and on the ground to the College’s 22. But a Hyde sack stopped the drive when New Hampshire tried to convert on fourth down.
Caprio would fumble on the ensuing possession, though, setting the Wildcats up on their own 41. The defense held, and after the teams traded punts a flurry of scoring came at the end of the half.
With two minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the quarter, Wildcat kicker Mike MacArthur hit a 37 yard field goal to break the tie, capping off an 11-play, 60-yard drive.
Grimes would answer right back, though. On the second play of the next drive, Caprio checked to the half back near the sideline. Grimes spun through tackles, somehow keeping his balance along the sideline, and broke out, winning a foot race to the endzone for a 72-yard touchdown catch.
“I was actually thinking about running out of bounds because it was two minutes,” Grimes said. “I was going to stop the clock, but somehow I stayed up and kept it going.”
The Wildcats got the ball back on their own 10 with just 1:35 left in the half, which turned out to be more than enough time for Decker and company to move down the field. The senior diced up the Tribe’s secondary, needing just seven plays before finding wideout R.J. Harris, who leapt over senior safety Jake O’Connor in the corner of the endzone, made the catch and barely kept his feet in bounds for the 15-yard touchdown catch to put the Wildcats up 10-7 going into halftime. Decker finished the game at 34 of 50 for 422 yards, a touchdown and two picks. He also ran the ball 17 times for 80 yards.
The lead would change hands again early in the third. Working at midfield on the Tribe’s first third quarter drive, Grimes caught a screen pass near the right hash. With blockers and lots of daylight in front of him, Grimes darted across the field and went 50 yards virtually untouched for his second touchdown reception, putting the College back on top, 14-10 after the extra point. The senior would finish the game with three catches for 126 yards.
“He just made the plays,” Laycock said of Grimes. “He’s been a step away from a play here, a step away from a play there, and then, son of a gun, he made some plays. A couple of times they thought he was down and he kept it going with effort. Jon plays like that every snap. Every snap of every game, every snap of practice.”
Two New Hampshire possessions later, the Wildcats were on the move with a first down at the Tribe 32. But freshman safety Ivan Tagoe stepped in front of a Decker pass at the 18 yard line, making his first career interception and keeping the score at 14-10 going into the fourth.
“For us defensively, even though they got some yards, for us to hold a team like that to 10 points, that’s a heck of an effort right there,” Laycock said.
On the College’s next possession it was Grimes’s backup, freshman running back Keith McBride, who made it a two-score game, taking a hand-off from Caprio and using his blocks to break free for a 50-yard touchdown run, putting the Tribe up 21-10.
After sophomore safety Jerome Couplin intercepted another Decker pass, sophomore kicker Drake Kuhn provided the final score with a 45-yard field goal.
But with the game in the bag, the drama persisted. Grimes was rapidly approaching the College’s career rushing record. Entering Saturday’s game, the senior needed 145 yards to become the school’s all-time rushing leader. On the last drive of the game, Grimes took sole possession on a 3-yard run on first down, passing Derek Fitzgerald ’96.
“It’s definitely a great achievement,” Grimes said. “That win was really huge for the school, for this season. And with the record coming today, it just put the icing on the cake. It was just a great day for William and Mary.”
Like any good back, the senior gave due credit to his offensive line.
“Those guys in front definitely motivate me, all day every day,” Grimes said. “They’ve got a lot of confidence in me, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in them, and all this wouldn’t be possible without starting from the linemen from freshman year.”
Grimes finished the game with 3,744 career rushing yards.
“Each week, I try to see what [Grimes] does well,” McBride said. “I try to mimic him and just try to get better each day. Jon’s somebody I definitely look up to.”
The win propels the College back into the playoff chase. The Wildcats entered the game in a three-way tie for first place, ranked sixth in the nation.
“This is great,” Hyde said. “All the guys know, we got together last night and we talked about it. I didn’t want my season to be done after [the Tribe’s final regular season game at] Richmond. I want to go to the playoffs. We have to win. Fight or die.”
With four conference games remaining, the Tribe will stay at home next week to face first-place Towson.