While last weekend’s quintuple-overtime victory over Elon could have been described as a nail-biter for William and Mary (4-6, 2-4 CAA), the triumph Saturday, Nov. 9, over Rhode Island (2-8, 0-6 CAA) felt more like a barbaric mauling of the entire hand. The Tribe outclassed the Rams on offense, defense and special teams on the way to a 55-19 win.
For the Rams, quarterback Darius Perrantes made his first start under center. After a three-and-out, Rhode Island punted. Meanwhile, the Tribe’s quarterback carousel continued to turn this week. On the College’s first offensive play, four of the five quarterbacks listed on the roster took the field. Junior passer Shon Mitchell misfired on a deep ball intended for freshman quarterback Hollis Mathis. Mathis failed to connect on a pass attempt of his own on third down and the drive ended on the next play with a punt.
Perrantes was replaced by quarterback Vito Priore on the next drive. However, the new field general did little to rectify the shaky play of his predecessor. Priore didn’t complete a pass and again the Rams punted before picking up a first down. Thanks to a poor boot by Rams punter Davey Schaum-Bartocci, the Tribe reclaimed possession right around midfield. Freshman wide receiver Bronson Yoder picked up the first first-down of the game with a 17-yard burst through the heart of the Rams defense. Two plays later, Mathis took a shot to the endzone, which fell incomplete. However, he was able to draw a flag for roughing the passer, which moved the Tribe into the red zone. On 2nd–and–1 from the Rams eight-yard line, Senior running back Albert Funderburke rumbled into the end zone. Senior kicker Kris Hooper tacked on the extra point to give the Tribe a seven–point edge.
The Rams offense lingered in its anemic state for most of the first quarter. They finally had an opportunity to break the trance after punt returner Ahmere Dorsey spliced the Tribe punt coverage for a 41–yard gain. On second down, senior defensive back and team captain Corey Parker appeared to intercept a Priore pass attempt. Upon further review, it was determined that Corey Parker dropped the ball. Prior to the ruling, he spun the ball on the ground in celebration of his would-be big play; the ensuing penalty moved the Rams 15 yards closer to the end zone. This was not the offensive stimulation the Rams needed. After pounding to the Tribe 13-yard line on consecutive carries, running back Naim Jones lost a fumble. Tribe junior defensive back Colin Parker had the recovery. Mathis wasted little time deploying an air raid against the Rams. A 41-yard bomb to junior receiver Zach Burdick set up Mathis to finish the job with his legs. He scrambled his way to a 15–yard score a few plays later. The Tribe now held a two–touchdown lead.
Almost immediately after getting the ball back, the Rams offense coughed up another turnover; Priore was intercepted by senior safety Miles Hayes. The Tribe got the ball back at the Rams 39–yard line. Burdick produced his second big play of the first quarter when he burst around the edge for a 32-yard rushing touchdown on second down. The Tribe lead had grown to 21 points.
The start of the second quarter saw a third–straight Rams turnover. After a big game last week, junior linebacker Tyler Crist was at it again, violently stripping the ball away from Priore and subsequently falling on top of the rolling football at the Rams 25-yard line. Despite the advantageous field position, the Tribe offensive possession died after an unsuccessful fourth–down conversion attempt. Perrantes reentered the game with both Rams quarterbacks mightily struggling. Regardless of who was taking snaps, the Rams began to favor their rushing attack, led by Jones, with hopes of fixing the offense. They managed one first down before punting.
Freshman fullback Donavyn Lester and Mathis put their feet together for a methodical march into enemy territory. The campaign was derailed though, when Yoder lost a fumble at the Rams 23-yard line. A questionable pass interference call against Corey Parker would send the Rams into an unfamiliar environment: the Tribe side of the 50. At last, they capitalized on catching a break. Perrantes sailed a pass into the waiting hands of wideout Isaiah Coulter. Tribe senior nose tackle Bill Murray blocked the extra point to keep the score at 21-6.
Mathis found himself in danger of suffering a sack on the following possession. He made a heads-up decision to shovel the ball forward to Lester before going down. Lester would do the rest. Fifty-eight yards later, he waltzed into the end zone after weaving between blockers all the way down the sideline. It wouldn’t be long before the Tribe were back in the end zone. Miles Hayes intercepted his second pass of the afternoon on the first Rams offensive snap of the series. With just 12 yards to go for six points, Yoder carried the ball on first down all the way for the score. The Tribe led 35-6 at halftime.
The Tribe corralled the kickoff to open the second half and picked up right where they left off. Sophomore runner Owen Wright exploded through a tear in the defense and never looked back on his way to a 59-yard touchdown dash. The Tribe added to their lead out of the break: 42-6.
Perrantes shook the Rams awake when they got the ball back, linking up with Coulter again for a 61-yard touchdown. The extra-point team had not yet come up with a solution for Bill Murray, though; he blocked the extra point again. Murray has made a habit of blocking kicks over his career. His two in this game counted for the eighth and ninth of his career, including both extra points and field goals.
The third quarter subsided before the Tribe punched it in again. Mathis ran it in himself for the second time in the game, this one from just five yards out.
The Rams rode the coattails of Dorsey’s gawky 63–yard catch-and–run right into the hands of Coulter’s third receiving touchdown, the lone bright spot for the Rams in this clash. This time the throw was delivered by Priore from 14 yards away. Murray did not block the extra point, nor did anybody else, but the Tribe remained on top 48-19. The Rams didn’t seem interested in shaking their perpetual sluggishness on defense for the final stretch of the game. Lester found the end zone again before the fat lady sang, bringing the score to its final resting place of 55-19.
The mood inside the Laycock Football Center was somewhere between jovial and just shy of ecstatic after the blowout was complete.
Senior linebacker Nate Atkins, the heartbeat of the Tribe locker room, commented on how his team felt on Saturday and how that contributed to the dominant performance.
“I think it was easy for us to rally … and extend that celebration into today,” Atkins said. “So, that’s what we did.”
Yoder, who now holds the College record for kick-return yards in a single season, overtaking the record of Jonathan Grimes ’12, agreed.
“We just rallied as one and came more together,” Yoder said.
The Tribe plays its final home game of the season Saturday, Nov. 16, when Towson comes to Williamsburg.