Football: Tribe drops season finale to Richmond, 10-6

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Courtesy image / TRIBE ATHLETICS

William and Mary wrapped up its season and head coach Jimmye Laycock’s ’70 tenure as head coach of the College with a rivalry game against Richmond. The Tribe won the last home matchup against the Colonial Athletic Association foes at Zable Stadium in 2016, but the Spiders reclaimed the Capital Cup in 2017 by defending their home field with a 27-20 victory over the Tribe. Saturday, the Spiders (4-7, 2-6 CAA) took advantage of the College’s offensive struggles in a low-scoring affair, defeating the Tribe (4-6, 3-4 CAA), 10-6 to end Laycock’s career at the helm.

“I thought defensively we played pretty well,” Laycock said. “Offensively we just couldn’t get in rhythm. We’d get something going and we’d hurt ourselves or make a mistake.”

The Tribe won the opening coin toss and deferred to receive the second half kickoff. Quarterback Reid Chenault and Richmond got the ball first to start the game. Forced into a third-and-long, Chenault scrambled for a first down and then the Spiders picked up a second first down after a pass interference call against the Tribe. However, the Tribe’s defense stiffened and did not concede another first down on the drive, forcing the Spiders to punt the ball away on fourth-and-18. The College’s drive started in similar fashion. The Tribe was forced to convert on third down to pick up a first down, its first of the afternoon, on a completion from sophomore quarterback Ted Hefter to sophomore tight end Nick Muse.

Two plays later, Muse came up with the biggest play of the drive on a 29-yard catch and run before being tackled at the Spiders’ 30. The College managed to pick up one more first down before the drive stalled, setting up junior kicker Kris Hooper for a 32-yard field goal attempt. Hooper’s struggles from this season continued as he pushed the kick wide right, keeping the score deadlocked at zero with 4:12 to go in the opening quarter.

“That hurt, missing that field goal,” Laycock said. “Even if we just got a field goal out of that thing, at least we would have gone on the board and been up early on them. … After that, we just couldn’t get going on offense.”

After the missed field goal, the Spiders took over at their own 20-yard line. After picking up one first down, the Spiders’ drive stalled again. However, on fourth down and four, the Spiders rolled the dice and ran a fake punt. Linebacker Dale Matthews Jr. took the snap and pushed forward for four yards. The spot was so close to the first down marker that the chains were brought out to confirm that Matthews had picked up the first down. The Spiders continued to move the ball down the field in small chunks and had to come up with two third down conversions as they entered the redzone for the first time in the game. Ultimately, quarterback Joe Mancuso found wide receiver Caleb Drake in the left corner of the endzone. Drake bobbled the ball but managed to come up with it, despite tight coverage by the Tribe’s defense. Drake’s catch and kicker Griffin Trau’s extra point gave the Spiders a 7-0 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half. The scoring drive took over eight minutes.

On the ensuing kickoff, redshirt senior wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon came up with a 40-yard return to the Tribe’s 47-yard line. Nevertheless, before even picking up a first down, the Tribe turned the ball back over to the Spiders. On third down, Hefter dropped back to pass and defensive back Daniel Jones picked it off and fell to the turf at the Spiders’ 43-yard line, where their offense took over. Despite Mancuso only completing one pass on the drive, the Spiders used a solid rushing attack from Mancuso and running back Milan Howard to pick up two first downs and set up Trau for a 44-yard field goal attempt that would have given them a two-possession lead. However, Trau’s kick knuckled and ricocheted off of the crossbar to keep the score at 7-0. The College could not take advantage of the missed field goal, losing yards on the drive. Neither team was able to put up more points for the rest of the half. The Tribe’s offense was able to cross into opponent territory before halftime, but the clock expired with Hefter lofting a deep pass to Dedmon in the endzone.

The College got the ball to start the second half but was unable to pick up a first down before sophomore punter Will Michael was called upon, again, to punt it away. In fact, the first three total possessions of the first half ended in quick three-and-outs. The Spiders got the ball back for their second drive of the second half and managed to move the ball into Tribe territory. After the first two first downs of the drive, Drake had picked up 26 total yards for the Spiders on the possession with two receptions and one run. However, a false start moved the ball back into Spider territory and they could not recover in order to extend the drive.

The Tribe’s third drive started at its own 19-yard line with the offense desperately looking to put points on the board. Nevertheless, the College’s offense failed to move the ball again, coming up short on third-and-one, forcing Michael into action yet again.

With the Tribe’s offense sputtering, the pressure was squarely back on the College’s defense. Once again, the Spiders were able to move the ball down the field, picking up three first downs to move the ball to the edge of the redzone with time in the third quarter winding down. A costly holding penalty pushed the field goal attempt back to 43 yards, but this time Trau was able to knock it through the uprights and extend the lead to a seemingly safe 10 point lead with 15 minutes to play in Laycock’s final game. With Hefter struggling under center and re-injuring his shoulder on the last play of the quarter, Laycock turned to sophomore quarterback Shon Mitchell. Mitchell’s first pass of the fourth quarter was a 26-yard toss to Muse for a first down at the Spiders’ 47-yard line. That was the first first down of the second half for the College.

Facing a third down, Mitchell hit Dedmon with a screen pass, but Dedmon was swarmed by Spider defenders. However, linebacker Justin Rubin was flagged for a late hit, allowing the drive to continue. On the next play, the Spiders were called for another penalty, setting the Tribe up at the 20. Forced into a third-and-long, Mitchell threw an interception ending the College’s chance at cutting the deficit to one possession. With less than a minute left in the game, Mitchell launched a deep pass to Dedmon down the right sideline. Dedmon hauled it in to cut the deficit to 10-6 after the missed extra point. With 47 seconds left, the College attempted an onside kick, but the Tribe was unable to recover it and the Spiders ran out the clock to hold on for a 10-6 victory on the Tribe’s senior day and Laycock’s final game.

“It’s disappointing not to win the game,” Laycock said. “I’m sure the rest of the things will kick in as we go on.”

The Spiders were led in victory by Drake’s 71 yards from scrimmage and one receiving touchdown. Matthews had the fourth down conversion on the fake punt as well as the critical interception of Mitchell in the redzone in the fourth quarter. For the College, Muse had five catches for 85 yards. Dedmon had seven receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown in his final collegiate game, along with his 40-yard kick return.

Neither team will qualify for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, and the Spiders maintain control of the Capital Cup despite picking up just two victories in the CAA this season. The Tribe will enter the offseason looking to develop young talent and produce a winning season in the first year under a new head coach, who will be chosen and announced in the coming months.