In a 10-minute span in the fourth quarter of William and Mary’s homecoming game at Zable Stadium Saturday, the College flipped the script with three unanswered touchdowns to take a late lead to beat Delaware, ending a three-game losing streak dating back to the last home game Sept. 24.
Following a 7-3 halftime deficit, the Tribe (3-4, 1-3 CAA) found its footing from two late interceptions by redshirt junior cornerback Aaron Swinton and a successful onside kick recovery. When the onslaught was finished, the final score read 24-17, the College earning its first Colonial Athletic Association victory of the season right before its bye week.
“It was good to get a win, good to get a win at home, good to get a CAA win and good to get a win going into the open date too,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said.
Both the Tribe and the Blue Hens (2-4, 0-3 CAA) scored on their opening drives; the College completing a 42-yard field goal from redshirt freshman kicker Kris Hooper before Delaware reached the end zone with a nine-yard rushing touchdown. With almost 20 minutes in the first half remaining, the scoreboard would remain 7-3 through the break.
It was good to get a win, good to get a win at home, good to get a CAA win and good to get a win going into the open date too,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said.
There were few chances for either team during the second quarter. With 11 minutes, 18 seconds before halftime, the College had a short drive that was set to end with senior punter Hunter Windmuller punting from the Tribe 48-yard line. His attempt was blocked and recovered by Delaware, giving the Blue Hens possession at midfield while injuring Windmuller and taking him out for the remainder of the game. The defensive response was formidable as the Tribe allowed just seven yards and forced a punt, preventing Delaware from padding its lead just yet.
After the break, Delaware scored on its second drive of the third quarter via a 34-yard rush by Blue Hens quarterback Joe Walker, putting the score at a daunting 14-3 deficit for the home squad. Both of the Tribe’s third quarter drives ended in punts, giving Delaware possession as the fourth quarter began. Continuing a long, rush-heavy drive, Walker was intercepted by Swinton in the end zone on a 14-yard passing attempt, giving the College a huge momentum swing with 14:11 remaining in the game. Senior quarterback Steve Cluley, who has had problems with consistency in the passing game this season, utilized receivers redshirt freshman Jalen Christian and junior DeVonte Dedmon to make it from the Tribe 20-yard line to the Delaware 1-yard line, where senior running back Kendell Anderson punched in the last yard for the touchdown.
Any time we get a turnover it helps us get back on the field and change the momentum, and I think [the offense hasn’t] been doing great in the turnover margin this year and [the defense] has been doing a great job and they did a great job today putting the ball back in our hands and letting us go do something,” Cluley said.
“Any time we get a turnover it helps us get back on the field and change the momentum, and I think [the offense hasn’t] been doing great in the turnover margin this year and [the defense] has been doing a great job and they did a great job today putting the ball back in our hands and letting us go do something,” Cluley said.
With 9:05 left and the score 14-10, the game became more manageable and Laycock took the risky path of calling for an onside kick. Hooper kicked 11 yards, just over the necessary distance for a Tribe player to grab it, and sophomore receiver Jack Armstrong got a hold on it for the recovery, giving the College possession again on its own 46-yard line. With any momentum Delaware had pulled out from under it, the Tribe marched downfield — even making a fourth-down conversion on the way — to have Cluley rush the ball himself for a 4-yard touchdown to take a 17-14 lead.
The Blue Hens attempted to get a drive going, but the Tribe defense kept gains short. On 3rd and 6 and with less than two minutes on the clock, Swinton snatched Walker’s pass attempt at the College 37-yard line and sprinted through for a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown as the defense blocked several Delaware players in Swinton’s path. The pick-6 secured the Tribe’s comeback victory with the score at 24-14. The Blue Hens would complete a 41-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining with hopes to send it to overtime with an onside kick and Hail Mary pass, but Anderson — usually not a special teams player — recovered the attempt, allowing the Tribe to take a knee for its second consecutive homecoming victory.
“I don’t know if we played great at all times of the game, but we sure played great when we needed to, coming down the stretch in that fourth quarter we made a lot of plays and we looked good there,” Laycock said. “Very pleased with how our players hung in there.”
On the stat sheet, Cluley looked similar to his mid-2015 form with a 24 for 31 passing rate, 204 passing yards and the rushing touchdown. His throwing success was complemented by Christian and Dedmon, who led the receivers with 83 and 45 respective yards, including a 29-yard bomb caught by Christian in the fourth quarter.
“I thought [Cluley] was a little erratic in the first half,” Laycock said. “Just wasn’t getting himself set to make some throws and being confident in firing the football, setting his feet, doing some things like that. He kind of regrouped there in the second half and I thought he played very well.”
I thought [Cluley] was a little erratic in the first half,” Laycock said. “Just wasn’t getting himself set to make some throws and being confident in firing the football, setting his feet, doing some things like that. He kind of regrouped there in the second half and I thought he played very well.”
Anderson remained a force to be reckoned with in the trenches, pushing right through the heart of the Blue Hen defense for 115 yards on the ground in 27 carries with one touchdown. The offense stayed composed, with no turnovers for the first time all season; the line also stood strong and only allowed one sack.
Defensively, Swinton stole the show with the monumental fourth-quarter interceptions. He also had a solo tackle and a pass breakup. Swinton commented on the details of the pick-6 play.
“I saw in film and from studying that [Delaware] likes to run those hitches at the yardsticks, so I knew it was coming and just waited there and he threw the ball. From that point on, my team did a great job blocking and we got it done.”
Senior linebacker Stephen Lubnow led in tackles with eight solo tackles and one assist, while junior defensive end Xavier Roscoe had six solo tackles and the lone sack for the Tribe.
Going into a bye week on a win is huge,” Cluley said. “It makes everything that much better, we’ve got to carry that momentum, make sure we don’t lose that momentum
The Tribe now heads into its bye week on a high note after the struggles that have plagued the season to this point.
“Going into a bye week on a win is huge,” Cluley said. “It makes everything that much better, we’ve got to carry that momentum, make sure we don’t lose that momentum … get healthy, that’s the biggest thing … We come back and we have a four-game stretch where we have to win four games.”
After the bye, the College returns to Zable Stadium to host Maine Sept. 29. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.