William and Mary 26, Rhode Island 7
It isn’t always pretty, but sometimes it’s sweet.
No. 4 William and Mary (5-1, 3-1 CAA) beat Rhode Island (2-3, 1-1 CAA) 26-7 Saturday in a game that could be called anything but a blowout.
“Nothing was coming easy. We were pounding in two, three, four yards,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “We missed some field goals, and we didn’t take advantage of some opportunities early.”
Fortunately for the Tribe, the Rams provided no shortage of opportunities. A fumble in their own territory late in the first half resulted in a Tribe field goal — and several ill-timed defensive penalties breathed new life into an occasionally sputtering Tribe offense.
The College had several opportunities to drive up the score in the first half, but walked into the tunnel with only a 13-7 lead over a sub-.500 team.
After going scoreless during the first quarter, both teams relied heavily on their running games to put points on the board during the second quarter.
Junior tailback Jonathan Grimes rushed for 77 yards on the day, passing Robert Green as the all-purpose rushing leader in William and Mary’s history, but it was senior tailbacks Courtland Marriner and Terrence Riggins who stole the show, rushing for one touchdown each for the Tribe during the fourth quarter.
“My time here at William and Mary is running out, so everything is precious to me,” Marriner said. “Every time on the field is precious to me.”
Junior quarterback Michael Paulus got off to a slow start, throwing only 3-for-7 in the first quarter. He turned it around in the second quarter, connecting with sophomore Ryan Moody for a 17-yard pass with 5 minutes and 44 seconds remaining in the half.
It was the only passing touchdown for either team on the day, and it almost didn’t happen. Earlier in the drive, Paulus threw over senior DJ Mangas’ head for what should have been an incomplete pass on third down. Junior cornerback Evan Shields played Mangas rather than the ball, resuscitating the Tribe and putting them in position for the great pass to Moody.
Paulus finished the day having completed 21-of-31 for 193 yards with no interceptions, showing leadership on a grueling eight-minute possession in the fourth quarter that ended with a three-yard touchdown run from Marriner.
“That was a long drive. I was getting kind of bored, running the ball, but that’s what you’ve got to do sometimes,” Laycock said.
Tribe cornerback Ben Cottingham broke up a fourth-and-goal pass in the end zone from Rams’ junior quarterback Steve Probst to senior running back Ayo Isijola, giving the Tribe possession for the next 97 yards and eight minutes.
“This time I was prepared for the play,” Cottingham said. “[The coaching staff] said, ‘they’re going to run it in the game. They ran it last year; they’re going to run it this year.’”
The Tribe’s defense was excellent throughout the game, holding the Rams to only 230 yards and one rushing touchdown. Fifth-year senior Evan Francks recovered a fumble and picked off the game’s only interception. Both turnovers led to a Tribe score.
The Rams’ lone scoring drive came with less than a minute to play in the first half. Probst led his offense on a 54-yard drive, capped by a 20-yard touchdown run from Isijola.
Isijola finished the day averaging 3.7 yards per carry and 56 yards. Probst went 13 for 22 with one interception.
The College will take a week off before facing No. 2 Delaware on Oct. 23 in Williamsburg in a crucial CAA matchup.
Flat Hat News Editor Ian Brickey contributed to this story.