As junior quarterback Steve Cluley dropped back for a pass on Richmond’s 12-yard line, the clock reading 2 minutes and 35 seconds in the final quarter, it looked as if William and Mary might be able to score its first touchdown of the day. Instead, the pass became Cluley’s third interception as Spiders defensive back David Herlocker returned the pick 55 yards, effectively ending the game.
In the 125th iteration of “the Oldest Rivalry in the South,” Richmond (8-3, 6-2 CAA) took the Capital Cup, as well as a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title in a 20-9 grind at Robins Stadium Saturday afternoon, denying the Tribe’s (8-3, 6-2 CAA) bid for picking up the title outright as the College failed to get into the end zone even once.
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“I was pretty disappointed with a lot of things about our play,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said. “I don’t think we were nearly to the level we have been in most of our games this year so far, and specifically, too, on the line of scrimmage. We certainly didn’t come close to controlling either side of the line of scrimmage and I think that was probably a big a factor as any and that caused some other things to escalate.”
The game began more optimistically for the Tribe, which entered Saturday on a six-game winning streak and ranked No. 7 in the Football Championship Subdvision. The first drive of the day saw sophomore kicker Nick Dorka, Jr. complete a 45-yard field goal for the 3-0 lead four minutes into the first quarter.
The Tribe’s bend-don’t-break defense stepped up after a string of successful completions by Spiders quarterback Kyle Lauletta. On 2nd and 1 on the Tribe 24, Lauletta made a completion to one of his favored targets, Richmond wideout Reggie Diggs, where senior linebacker Zach Fetters was waiting. Fetters forced a fumble and recovered it at the Tribe 23, preventing a Richmond score.
I was pretty disappointed with a lot of things about our play,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said. “I don’t think we were nearly to the level we have been in most of our games this year so far, and specifically, too, on the line of scrimmage.
On the Tribe’s second drive, the College began to falter. On 2nd and 10 just into Richmond territory, Cluley was intercepted for the first time since James Madison made a pick-6 in the Oct. 31 game at Zable Stadium. Richmond failed to score again and punted, but William and Mary seemed shaken, facing a much tougher team than the previous six opponents. The next set of downs saw the Tribe false start, bobble what appeared to be catchable passes, and have to punt from its own 13-yard line.
Richmond finally put itself on the board with 3:54 remaining in the first half, taking a 7-3 lead. The touchdown was an 18-yard pass made to Spiders receiver Brian Brown on 3rd and goal after an offensive pass interference penalty backed Richmond up from the Tribe’s three yard-line. Richmond made the pass look easy with Tribe defenders nowhere near Brown.
The next play appeared to be the College’s biggest lucky break of the first half, as junior punter Hunter Windmuller punted on 4th and 7 on the Tribe 36. Sophomore safety Richie DiPietro forced a fumble from Richmond wideout David Jones, although Jones had called for fair catches on every other punt this season. Sophomore safety Keanu Reuben recovered the ball on the Spiders’ 20, giving the Tribe a renewed chance to score. However, fate would not stand with the Tribe, as Jones made up for his lost ball by intercepting Cluley on the first play of the drive, tipping the ball up before catching it while falling.
“Steve was under more pressure today than he’s used to being under and I think that may have affected his decision-making, and that affected us,” Laycock said.
Despite the turnover, the Tribe held on to cut the Spiders’ lead. Dorka made a 51-yard field goal — the longest of the season and his career — as time expired to make the score 7-6 at the break.
The Spiders made it to the end zone on their second-half-opening drive as star Richmond running back Jacobi Green rushed 12 yards to score, putting the home team up 14-6.
Dorka’s 22-yard field goal marked the Tribe’s final scoring play as senior tailback Mikal Abdul-Saboor was stopped short of a first down on 3rd and 3, the team electing to score points rather than risk losing possession. The score stood 14-9 with 6:34 in the third quarter.
Richmond scored its third and final touchdown on the subsequent drive, a pass to Diggs for 18 yards. The Spiders attempted a two-point conversion, which failed. The score, which would eventually be the final score, was now 20-9.
They did a good job pass rushing us today,” Laycock said. “It wasn’t so much blitzing it was some one-on-one plays up front. They got to us, hurried Steve, hit Steve a few times because of that.”
The Tribe prevented any more Richmond scoring in the fourth quarter, but it didn’t matter as the Spiders also prevented the College from scoring. Windmuller punted 18 seconds into the quarter, Cluley threw incomplete to Dedmon in a big pass break-up on the penultimate drive for a turnover-on-downs, and Cluley’s third interception came on the final Tribe drive.
“They did a good job pass rushing us today,” Laycock said. “It wasn’t so much blitzing it was some one-on-one plays up front. They got to us, hurried Steve, hit Steve a few times because of that.”
Statistically, the Tribe played its worst game of the season. Cluley threw three picks after only throwing a pair in the previous 10 games, and neither Abdul-Saboor nor junior running back Kendell Anderson broke 100 rushing yards, nor did they even add up to 100 together (Anderson led with 47, followed by Abdul-Saboor at 44). The Tribe’s strong ground game was stomped on as Richmond outrushed the College by a 235-95 yard margin, led by Green’s 218-yard effort. Cluley threw 20 for 37, a 54 percent effort following last week’s 91 percent, and was sacked for the first time in four games. Defensively, senior linebacker Luke Rhodes led with 13 tackles, but the defense didn’t stand out compared to the Spiders’ dominant performance.
I felt like we were prepared and it just didn’t work out and we didn’t play the way we needed to play, and Richmond played well,” Laycock said.
“I felt like we were prepared and it just didn’t work out and we didn’t play the way we needed to play, and Richmond played well,” Laycock said.
Richmond broke a two-game losing streak while the Tribe’s six-game win streak was snapped. Both teams share the CAA title with James Madison, who defeated Villanova shortly Saturday. Sunday morning, the NCAA FCS playoff field was announced. No. 13 William and Mary hosts unranked Duquesne in the first round Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Zable, the first playoff appearance for the Tribe since 2010. With a victory, the Tribe moves on to a rematch at No. 7-seed Richmond the following week.