Football: No. 7 College defeats Towson 31-17

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Saturday at Zable Stadium, William and Mary accomplished the feat it could not in the 2013 season: defeating Towson to seal a perfect regular-season home slate at 5-0. Although the game was tightly contested, the No. 7 Tribe broke away from the Tigers in the fourth quarter for the 31-17 victory.

“We knew heading into this that this was going to be a test … but I think our guys were up to the challenge,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said. “I thought we played hard, I thought we competed like crazy … if we hadn’t had two turnovers it wouldn’t have been close.”

In the senior day showdown in Williamsburg, Va., the College (8-2, 6-1 CAA) entered as the front-runner of the Colonial Athletic Association with a five-game win streak. Towson (6-4, 4-3 CAA) was tied with several teams for second place before the game and had a four-game win streak.

We knew heading into this that this was going to be a test … but I think our guys were up to the challenge,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said. “I thought we played hard, I thought we competed like crazy … if we hadn’t had two turnovers it wouldn’t have been close.”

The last Towson visit to Zable saw a 15-9 loss for the College when the Tigers were ranked No. 10/7 and the Tribe was ranked No. 16/20. However, history was not to repeat itself for the Tigers.

Towson began with a three and out, giving the College its first possession on its own 3-yard line. In sharp deviation from conservative play-calling early in the season, junior quarterback Steve Cluley utilized his receivers on the deep ball, throwing a 51-yard pass to sophomore wideout Daniel Kuzjak to reach Towson territory. Cluley fired downfield again on a 19-yard pass to sophomore wideout DeVonte Dedmon to enter the red zone. Unfortunately for the Tribe, Cluley was hurried and threw an incomplete pass intended for Kuzjak on 3rd and 3. William and Mary began with a 3-0 lead after sophomore kicker Nick Dorka, Jr., completed a 22-yard field goal midway through the first quarter.

With Towson tailback Darius Victor and quarterback Connor Frazier, the Tigers marched down the field with rushing plays, but the College stopped the drive short, holding the visitors to a successful 34-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 early in the second quarter.

On the second William and Mary drive, junior tailback Kendell Anderson entered the game for some rushes, but the passing game continued to shine as Anderson caught an 11-yard pass in Tiger territory, his biggest play of the drive. On the next play, Dedmon took the handoff on a jet-sweep for a 25-yard rush to the 7-yard line. Junior receiver Kevin Hart then added his second touchdown reception of the year and his career with a 5-yard pass at the back of the end zone as Cluley passed through blown defensive coverage for the easy catch. With the Dorka PAT successful, the Tribe led 10-3.

As time ticked down for the first half, Towson burned six minutes, 15 seconds and was forced to punt on 4th and 16 on the Tribe 38-yard line. The Tigers did have a 3rd and 8 at the Tribe 30 before back-to-back penalties for illegal formation pushed them 10 yards in the wrong direction. William and Mary received its punt and looked to be going forward with 1:34 remaining, but a holding penalty aborted any plans for late plays, and halftime began with the College up 10-3.

After the break, the Tribe received the kickoff, which Dedmon returned from the goal line to the College 27-yard line. The drive ended in a three-and-out 4th and 10, although the punt return ended in unusual fashion. The Towson returner hit one of the Tribe special teams players, resulting in the Towson player’s ejection from the game, pushing the drive’s starting point from the 20 to the 10.

I just heard no whistle,” Fetters said. “We preach that everyday you go to the whistle. I saw the ball on the ground and just had to go get it and finish the play. … I thought if [the ref] isn’t going to blow they whistle, might as well go get it.”

It proved an ill-fated drive for the Tigers. On a third-down conversion attempt on the Tigers 40-yard line, Frazier fumbled on what was ruled a backward pass, leaving the ball alive for senior linebacker Zach Fetters to scoop up for a 36-yard Tribe touchdown, giving the College a 17-3 lead six minutes into the third quarter after the extra point.

“I just heard no whistle,” Fetters said. “We preach that everyday you go to the whistle. I saw the ball on the ground and just had to go get it and finish the play. … I thought if [the ref] isn’t going to blow they whistle, might as well go get it.”

Towson found the end zone with Victor rushing 13 yards to bring the game within seven again at 17-10.

However, while not giving up the lead, the Tribe did give up the ball in a huge turnover at midfield. Dedmon caught a pass for eight yards across the 50, but Towson forced and recovered a fumble. On the following drive, the Tigers looked poised to score, but as the fourth quarter began, sophomore safety Mike Barta locked eyes with Frazier and intercepted the ball in the end zone.

Hart’s number came up again on the next drive as Cluley fired a 35-yard touchdown pass for his second touchdown reception of the game on a seam route to Hart, as Cluley had all day to throw. The College led 24-10 with 11:22 remaining in the game.

Towson punted on 4th and 13 after Frazier was sacked by junior linebacker Stephen Lubnow, but William and Mary fumbled again on the subsequent drive as senior tailback Mikal Abdul-Saboor rushed for 12 yards, losing possession. Towson scored again with a short rush by Victor, but the Tribe answered again with a classic Anderson rushing play to bring the score to 31-17. Time expired for the Tigers as Frazier was sacked to end the game, giving the Tribe its 5-0 home record.

As we’re getting down the stretch here I definitely want to make sure that, since we’re in control of our destiny at this point, … when we go out on the field as an offense I can be in control and get us going,” Cluley said

Cluley was named CAA Offensive Player of the Week as he went 21 for 23, a 91 percent in passing completion, and threw two touchdowns. Abdul-Saboor and Anderson both hit over 70 yards apiece rushing, and Kuzjak led the receivers with four receptions for 88 yards. Senior safety DeAndre Houston-Carson led the defense with 12 tackles.

“As we’re getting down the stretch here I definitely want to make sure that, since we’re in control of our destiny at this point, … when we go out on the field as an offense I can be in control and get us going,” Cluley said.

Already holding at least a partial claim on the conference title, the Tribe travels to archrival Richmond (7-3, 5-2 CAA) this weekend, where the College seeks to claim the outright title and Football Championship Subdivision playoffs first round bye in its regular season finale. Kickoff is scheduled at noon and will be broadcasted on Comcast SportsNet.