A season with plenty of twists and turns took another sharp bend Saturday, as William and Mary rolled into Towson, Md. and trounced the Tigers 37-14. The College (7-4, 4-3 CAA) scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions, running Towson (4-7, 2-5 CAA) out of its own building.
“I thought we played pretty well,” head coach Jimmye Laycock told Tribe Athletics. “I was really pleased, obviously, with the start that we had … and then as the game progressed, on both sides of the ball. We played a good game.”
The Tribe racked up 203 rushing yards, including 141 by junior running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor. Abdul-Saboor leads the Colonial Athletic Association in rushing yards per game with 116.1, and his 1,161 yards this year are the 10th highest single season total in the College’s history. Abdul-Saboor also added three rushing touchdowns to blitz the Tigers into submission.
The Tribe started off at a sprint, as sophomore quarterback Steve Cluley completed three passes for 53 yards on the College’s first drive, ending with a 27-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Tre McBride. Abdul-Saboor added two touchdowns later in the first quarter, propelling the Tribe to a 21-0 lead. For its part, the College’s defense held Towson to just 40 yards in the opening period.
That first quarter effectively decided the contest. Though Towson’s Darius Victor ran in a touchdown to cut the Tribe lead to 21-7 early in the second quarter, the College immediately responded with a 67-yard drive that devoured seven minutes of game clock and ended with Abdul-Saboor’s third touchdown. After a subsequent Towson drive stalled at midfield, the first half ended with the College up 28-7.
“I think the Towson defense thought we were going to pound [the ball] right away, so we were able to soften them up a little bit by throwing the ball on that first drive,” Abdul-Saboor told Tribe Athletics. “The rest of the half we just played aggressively at the line of scrimmage, and I was able to get some space.”
Towson’s misfortune continued after halftime, as return man Joseph Derrick fumbled the third quarter’s opening kickoff at his own 37. The Tribe turned that mistake into a field goal from senior kicker John Carpenter and a 31-7 lead. After another Towson drive stalled, the Tribe once again drove into Towson territory and extended its lead to 34-7 with another field goal.
Though Towson finally added a second touchdown in the fourth quarter and closed the gap to 34-14, that score marked the Tigers’ final points of the game. Carpenter booted his third field goal of the day a few minutes later, but the fourth quarter was largely meaningless as the game wound down to its 37-14 final score.
The two teams finished with 307 yards apiece, but the College forced three turnovers and avoided any miscues. Cluley completed 10 of 17 passes for 104 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers. He hasn’t thrown an interception since the Tribe’s Oct. 11 loss at New Hampshire.
The game also featured the return of senior tight end Bo Revell, who injured his leg against Virginia Tech Aug. 30 and was not expected to play again this year. Revell caught one pass for 19 yards.
The victory was the Tribe’s first against Towson since 2009, and it kept the College’s hopes for a Football Championship Subdivision postseaon berth alive. It is unclear exactly what circumstances can punch the Tribe’s ticket to the playoffs, but the College must certainly win over Richmond, its final opponent of the regular season.
The College hosts Richmond Saturday night at Zable Stadium. The Tribe will be looking to avenge a 31-20 loss to the Spiders in last year’s season finale. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.