Over Thanksgiving break, William and Mary hosted its first playoff game since 2010. In a shootout featuring several turnovers for both teams, the Tribe overcame Duquesne 52-49, advancing to the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
“When you get to the playoffs, one team advances and one goes home, you take whatever you can get,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said. “It’s not like the regular season, you’re just happy to get a win. I’m pleased we got a win, I’m pleased for our players that we got a win, we have nine wins now and we’re regrouping to see what we’ve got going.”
The game began with a bang as the Dukes (8-4) fired a 71-yard touchdown through the air on the first play of the game, taking a 7-0 lead with only 16 seconds off the clock. After a College (9-3) three-and-out, Duquesne charged downfield for a 6-yard scoring pass, now leading 14-0 with 9:14 remaining in the first quarter. Based on the pace, the Tribe seemed completely outmatched.
When you get to the playoffs, one team advances and one goes home, you take whatever you can get,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said. “It’s not like the regular season, you’re just happy to get a win. I’m pleased we got a win, I’m pleased for our players that we got a win, we have nine wins now and we’re regrouping to see what we’ve got going.”
However, William and Mary didn’t panic, responding instead with 28 unanswered points through almost the entire rest of the first half. Using a balanced attack, the Tribe established itself on the Dukes 38-yard line on 2nd and 9, where junior quarterback Steve Cluley threw a touchdown pass to sophomore wideout DeVonte Dedmon on a seam route, the first of three passes that crossed the plane.
Duquesne’s subsequent drive saw junior cornerback Trey Reed diving for an interception of Dukes quarterback Dillon Buechel, the same cornerback whom Buechel burnt on the first pass of the game. Reed’s redemption pick gave the College the ball on the Duquesne 40-yard line. Cluley connected to Dedmon for the second time for a 24-yard passing touchdown. With the successful kick after, the game was tied at 14 near the end of the first quarter. With 1:13 before the second quarter, Cluley threw his first interception of the night, as sophomore tight end Andrew Caskin bobbled the ball into his defender.
Despite the Dukes gaining possession from the pick, the defense held fast as Duquesne entered the red zone. Buechel threw a completion on 3rd and 1 for no gain on the Tribe 16-yard line, followed by a huge defensive stand credited to sophomore defensive end Matt Ahola and senior linebacker Ian Haislip where the rush was stopped on 4th and inches for a turnover on downs.
The following College drive included a 32-yard rush by junior tailback Kendell Anderson to reach midfield and a 28-yard pass to Caskin to charge deep into Dukes territory. The drive ended with a 3-yard Anderson rushing touchdown, his first of two on the night.
Duquesne, now down 21-14 midway through the second quarter, threw three straight incompletions from its own 42 after a solid kickoff return. A fake punt on 4th and 10 ended in disaster, as Dukes running back Cory Griffith made it four yards before he was brought down by the Tribe for another turnover on downs. Once again gaining possession with solid field position, a 21-yard quarterback rush by Cluley and a series of four senior tailback Mikal Abdul-Saboor rushes brought in another touchdown, executed with a two-yard rush by Abdul-Saboor to push the lead to 28-14.
Duquesne didn’t wait for halftime to regroup. The Dukes made a nine-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-21 on the next drive, followed by gaining possession in the final minute of the quarter with Cluley’s second interception (a short pass into double coverage) on the first play of the Tribe’s drive. Duquesne was held to a field goal, making the score a tight 28-24 entering the break.
The College received the ball to start the second half, but was held to a field goal on the opening drive. Sophomore kicker Nick Dorka, Jr. completed a 20-yard attempt to make the William and Mary advantage seven points at 31-24.
It was the same thing we always do,” Claytor said of the blocked kick. “What kind of happened was we moved the front over so I wasn’t on the long snapper and I don’t think they saw that … It kind of worked out in our favor because I wasn’t in the place I’m usually at on field goals.”
Duquesne would never take a lead after the initial 14-0 margin, but the next drive almost brought the game to a tie midway through the third quarter. Buechel and the Dukes were making their way down the field with a series of passing plays. A 26-yard pass and a 28-yard pass, both to Dukes receiver Chris King, brought the visitors to the Tribe 24. Small completions brought Duquesne to 1st and goal at the 5-yard line. An incompletion and a completion later and it was 4th and goal on the 1-yard line. After a Tribe timeout, Duquesne drew a delay of game penalty, moving to 4th and goal on the Tribe 6. The field goal unit entered the field. Instead of three points for the Dukes, the kick was blocked by senior defensive tackle Tyler Claytor, who then blocked for senior safety and Colonial Athletic Association Defender of the Year DeAndre Houston-Carson on the 65-yard scoop-and-score.
“It was the same thing we always do,” Claytor said. “What kind of happened was we moved the front over so I wasn’t on the long snapper and I don’t think they saw that … It kind of worked out in our favor because I wasn’t in the place I’m usually at on field goals.”
The defensive play, the penalty, and the blocked kick return brought William and Mary to 38-24 with 20 minutes of game time remaining.
“I think T.C. deserves a lot of credit for not getting caught up in the emotion of blocking the kick and just going on — forgetting about everything and going for the ball,” Laycock said. “He quickly turned and went into recognizing DeAndre was coming off the corner on the block, [Claytor] knew [Houston-Carson] would be somewhere around there and was smart to look for him.”
The Dukes fired back with another passing touchdown four minutes later with an 18-yard completion to the end zone. The lead brought back down to a single touchdown at 38-31, the fourth quarter was all that remained in one of the team’s seasons.
I think T.C. deserves a lot of credit for not getting caught up in the emotion of blocking the kick and just going on — forgetting about everything and going for the ball,” Laycock said. “He quickly turned and went into recognizing DeAndre was coming off the corner on the block, [Claytor] knew [Houston-Carson] would be somewhere around there and was smart to look for him.”
Dedmon made three receptions Saturday, all of them touchdown passes. His third and final reception opened the fourth quarter, a 37-yard pass from Cluley for the 45-31 lead with 14:50 left on fourth down. Duquesne continued what it had been doing best in passing the ball, scoring another touchdown with a 5-yard pass to encroach on the host’s lead again 45-38.
After the Dukes’ score, the next few minutes were particularly eventful, featuring three turnovers in the span of two minutes. On 2nd and 10, Cluley handed off to Dedmon for a 4-yard rush, where the Dukes forced a fumble and recovered the ball, the Tribe losing possession. On the first play of the new drive, Buechel threw an interception to redshirt freshman cornerback Raeshawn Smith. However, the College’s new drive then saw the Dukes defense strip-sack Cluley and recover once again. Claytor was able to hurry Buechel into throwing incomplete on 3rd and 9 four plays three plays later, forcing Duquesne to attempt a 35-yard field goal. The scoreboard now read 45-41, the closest the game had been since halftime.
We haven’t really been in a whole lot of games like this,” Laycock said. “But we didn’t panic or throw things out the window, we just kept playing. You’ve got to be able to adjust to the way the game is flowing … I thought our players did a good job with that.”
Anderson’s second rushing touchdown, an 8-yard run, would be the final William and Mary scoring play of the game. With 3:17 remaining in the game, Anderson made the game 52-41. Duquesne would also score a final time with a sixth passing touchdown by Buechel, a 42-yard pass. Opting for a two-point conversion attempt, Buechel was complete to King to make it a three-point game with 71 seconds left. Houston-Carson recovered the onside kick on the Dukes 44. Anderson then rushed for the first down on 3rd and 2, anticipation in the air as the officials measured with the chains, before the Tribe began to celebrate as it took victory formation, winning 52-49.
“We haven’t really been in a whole lot of games like this,” Laycock said. “But we didn’t panic or throw things out the window, we just kept playing. You’ve got to be able to adjust to the way the game is flowing … I thought our players did a good job with that.”
The matchup was the most points scored by the Tribe and the most allowed all season. Buechel was 33 for 53 with two picks, throwing for 423 yards and six touchdowns. Cluley threw 11 for 15 with two picks and three touchdowns. Dedmon led the receiving corps with 99 yards on three catches. Duquesne rushed 26 times, while the College rushed 47 times — William and Mary understandably held a yardage advantage 251-132 on the ground with a trio of rushing touchdowns. Houston-Carson’s return brought in the crucial seventh touchdown. Overall, the Tribe scored on multiple drives each quarter and pulled out the victory despite Duquesne’s 9 of 14 third down conversion rate and the four turnovers given to the Dukes.
The win continues the undefeated streak at Zable Stadium, now 6-0 this fall. William and Mary moves on to round two, where it will face a rematch with Richmond (8-3) this Saturday, Dec. 5, at noon. Richmond defeated the Tribe 20-9 to take part of the CAA crown from the College and has a four-game winning streak over William and Mary entering the game.