Football: Tribe scores on four straight drives to surge past Villanova, 24-17

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Courtesy image / TRIBE ATHLETICS

William and Mary last played two weeks ago in a loss against Rhode Island. The Tribe had its bye week last weekend, giving it more time to prepare for Saturday’s matchup against Villanova. The Wildcats came into the game with a little more momentum than the College, having won their first CAA game last weekend. The Wildcats took on Richmond last week on the road, routing the Spiders 45-21 after dropping their first five Colonial Athletic Association games of the season. Saturday, the Tribe (4-5, 3-3 CAA) scored on four straight drives in the middle of the game and held off a late surge by the Wildcats (4-6, 1-6 CAA) to move back to .500 in the CAA with a 24-17 win.

The Wildcats won the coin toss, but deferred to receive the second half kickoff, so the College’s offense took the field first. The Tribe put together a time-consuming opening drive. The eight-play drive consisted of just one pass. Sophomore running back Nate Evans had five carries on the possession. Ultimately, the College managed to cross over midfield, but the drive stalled at the 44-yard line. Sophomore punter Will Michael came on for his first punt of the afternoon and pinned the Wildcats deep in their own territory. His punt travelled 43 yards and was downed at the one-yard line.

The Wildcats benefitted from good field position on a drive at the end of the first quarter. The drive started at the Tribe’s 45-yard line, and the Wildcats managed to move the ball to the two-yard line before a costly mistake kept the game scoreless. Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk threw a pass into the endzone, but junior safety Isaiah Laster stepped in front of the pass and picked it off. Laster opted to run the ball out of the endzone and was tackled at the nine-yard line where the Tribe’s offense set up to start the second quarter.

The College could not put together a long drive and get into scoring position, but Michael hit his second great punt of the day, this time booming it 62 yards down the field. The Wildcats drive began inside the 20-yard line at the 13. Once again, Bednarczyk’s errant passing cost the Wildcats and this time set up the Tribe inside the redzone. Laster came up with his second interception of the game and wove through the Wildcats’ offense before getting tackled at the 15-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Shon Mitchell entered the game for the drive after fellow sophomore quarterback Ted Hefter got the start. Mitchell made his one play under center count, finding junior tight end Tyler Klaus wide open in the right side of the endzone. Junior kicker Kris Hooper tacked on the extra point to give the College a 7-0 advantage.

After neither team scored until the 10:31 mark of the second quarter, the final three drives of the half ended in touchdowns. The Wildcats answered the Tribe’s touchdown with a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ran 7:27 off the clock. With just over three minutes left in the half, the Wildcats capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run by running back Aaron Forbes. Nevertheless, the College was able to take the lead into the locker room. Hefter re-entered the game and completed all three of his pass attempts for 64 yards. The drive appeared to stall at the one-yard line, but with three seconds left in the half, the Tribe rolled the dice and went for it on fourth down.

On the last play of the half, Evans took the toss from Hefter and faked a pitch. The fake pitch caused the Wildcats’ defense to freeze and allowed Evans to scamper into the left corner of the endzone. The College took a 14-7 lead to the half.

The Wildcats got the ball to start the second half, but the trend of consecutive drives ending in touchdowns was snapped as they picked up one first down before punting. The punt was downed at the 29-yard line with 11:44 to play in the third quarter. The Tribe’s offense, which came into the game averaging 13.3 points per game, continued to move the ball well against the Wildcats. This time, Hefter completed three of four pass attempts and capped off the drive with an 18-yard toss to redshirt senior wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon. The Wildcat defender slipped in the endzone, leaving Dedmon wide open to catch his first touchdown of the game. The College took its largest lead of the game, 21-7, with just under 10 minutes to play in the quarter.

The Wildcats’ attempt to answer the College’s touchdown and stop the bleeding ended quickly with the Tribe forcing and recovering a fumble to set its offense up at the Wildcats’ 40-yard line. The College moved the ball just inside the redzone, but had to settle for a 37-yard Kris Hooper field goal. Hooper split the uprights to give the Tribe a three-score lead, 24-7. The Wildcats were able to respond with another long scoring drive. The Wildcats methodical drive started at its own 13-yard line after an ill-advised decision to take the kickoff out of the endzone. However, the Wildcats moved the ball 87 yards, taking over nine minutes off the clock. The Wildcats scored a couple minutes into the fourth quarter to cut their deficit to 10 points.

The Tribe’s offense only mustered three yards on the ensuing drive and were forced to give the ball back to the Wildcats with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game. A few long runs and a 15-yard late hit penalty helped the Wildcats move into the redzone for the second straight drive. They had to settle for a field goal, but those three points allowed them to creep within one possession, 24-17. After putting up 24 points over four possessions, the College’s offense stalled and only put up 24 yards on the next 13 plays. After the Wildcats’ field goal, the Tribe went three-and-out and the Wildcats got the ball at their own 43-yard line with a chance to tie the game with just under four minutes remaining. However, Bednarczyk turned the ball over for the third time in the game, giving the Tribe a chance to run out the clock. Nevertheless, the Tribe went three-and-out yet again.

The Wildcats took over inside their own 30-yard line with a little less than two minutes to play and no timeouts. Villanova picked up two first downs, but faced a fourth down and four at the Tribe’s 36-yard line with a little more than a minute to play. Junior linebacker Nate Atkins tipped Bednarczyk’s pass, and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground, allowing the Tribe to run the clock out and escape with a road victory.

The Wildcats were led by tight end Ryan Bell’s 79 yards on seven catches for his senior day. The Wildcats will wrap up their season next Saturday on the road against Delaware, which is currently tied for first place in the CAA. The College was led by Hefter’s 141 yards on 8-17 passing and Evans’ 58 rushing yards and a touchdown. Laster also had two interceptions for the College. The Tribe will return home for the first time since its Homecoming upset of Maine. The College will take on in-state rival Richmond Saturday. The Spiders only have one win in the CAA this season. The home game next weekend will be the last collegiate game of Dedmon’s career and the last game of head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70’s 39-year tenure as the head coach of the Tribe.