No. 12 William and Mary leaped to a tie for first in the Colonial Athletic Association standings this past weekend, blowing out Elon 34-13 in the penultimate road game of the season. The Tribe recorded its fifth straight victory and is now on the brink of a NCAA Football Championship Subdvision playoff berth.
The College (7-2, 5-1 CAA) took an early lead, as it marched down the field on a nine-play, 69-yard drive. Junior running back Kendell Anderson, who carried the ball on four of the nine plays, dashed into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown. Elon’s (3-6, 2-4 CAA) offense then took the field, but jogged to the sidelines two plays later when Phoenix quarterback Daniel Thompson was stripped of the football by junior defensive end Peyton Gryder. Senior linebacker Zach Fetters scooped up the loose ball. The Tribe offense called senior tailback Mikal Abdul-Saboor’s number on the next drive, as the College’s No. 2 rusher scored from one yard out to double the Tribe’s lead.
“I thought we were pretty efficient,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said to Tribe Athletics. “We jumped on them early, and had the early lead … at this stage of the season, you play a CAA game, you can’t complain in any kind of win.”
Sophomore wideout DeVonte Dedmon added to the first quarter barrage. With 6:10 remaining in the first quarter, Elon punted in a three-and-out situation. Dedmon returned the ball all the way for a 70-yard punt return touchdown to put the Tribe up 21-0.
I thought we were pretty efficient,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said to Tribe Athletics. “We jumped on them early, and had the early lead … at this stage of the season, you play a CAA game, you can’t complain in any kind of win.”
“Anything like that [return] that sets the down and gives you a margin early on is big,” Laycock said to Tribe Athletics. ”We’ve been waiting for DeVonte to break one. He’s a game-breaking type of player.”
The defense made a big play on the next drive. After Elon quarterback Connor Christiansen replaced Thompson, the Phoenix crossed midfield and were faced with a critical 4th and 2. Christiansen completed a pass to wide receiver Tre Lennon for a 21-yard gain, but senior linebacker Luke Rhodes forced Lennon to fumble. Senior free safety DeAndre Houston-Carson picked up the loose ball for the Tribe. Sophomore kicker Nick Dorka, Jr., would add on two field goals in the second quarter, giving the College a massive 27-0 lead heading into the break.
The second half was rougher for the Tribe defense. Elon running back Malcolm Summers carried the offense after halftime, capitalizing on missed tackles by William and Mary. Christiansen was allowed to manage the game and lean on Summers, who scored on a two-yard touchdown run to end what was on pace to be the College’s second shutout victory of the year.
The College was forced to punt again in the third quarter after Elon stuffed the run game. With the Phoenix now in possession, and trying to find a way back into the game, Fetters came up clutch yet again. Fetters picked off Christiansen on the first play of the series, planting his feet just in-bounds and leaning forward as the ball fell right into his hands. After the officials watched the replay for the interception, junior quarterback Steve Cluely fired a touchdown pass on the following drive to redshirt-freshman receiver Matt Sniezek — his first career score — the victory was all but assured with the score at 34-6.
I think we need to tackle better,” he said to Tribe Athletics. “We’ve got to shore up some things on our run blocking, I could give you a litany of things right now. But again, we’ve won seven games. We’re into November, and we’re playing meaningful games, so that’s what we shoot for.”
Summers ran in another two-yard touchdown with 8:31 remaining in the fourth quarter to make the score 34-13, but an Elon comeback bid would not materialize. Despite the bumpy second half, William and Mary left as winners for the fifth straight week. Laycock acknowledged the mistakes, but praised his team for their run of success.
“I think we need to tackle better,” he said to Tribe Athletics. “We’ve got to shore up some things on our run blocking, I could give you a litany of things right now. But again, we’ve won seven games. We’re into November, and we’re playing meaningful games, so that’s what we shoot for.”
The College celebrates senior day and faces Towson (6-3, 4-2 CAA) for the final regular season home game Saturday at 1:30 p.m Towson currently stands in a tie for second and is on a four-game winning streak, making it all the more important for a Tribe victory this weekend at Zable Stadium.