After a 2-9 season that included an eight-game losing streak to end the year in 2017, William and Mary returned to the field to kick off the 2018 season Sept. 1 at Bucknell. Just over a week ago, the College announced that the starting quarterback for the season opener against the Bison would be sophomore Shon Mitchell. Mitchell started three games in 2017, but struggled to give the Tribe a viable pass attack. In the first contest of head coach Jimmye Laycock’s 39th and final season, the Tribe won a low-scoring game, 14-7, on senior wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon’s 75-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter.
The College received the opening kickoff and put together a drive of almost nine minutes down the field to score the first points of the game. The Tribe struggled in 2017 to put up points in the first half, but scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the season-opener in 2018. The biggest play of the drive was a fourth down conversion inside the red zone. Two plays later, Mitchell faked a handoff and dashed towards the left corner of the end zone, crossing the plane to give the Tribe a 7-0 advantage after junior kicker Kris Hooper’s extra point. Mitchell was 2-3 passing on the drive and sophomore running back Nate Evans and junior running back Albert Funderburke combined for 40 yards on the ground.
The Bison were driving down the field on their first drive looking to tie the score, but junior safety Isaiah Laster picked off Bucknell quarterback John Chiarolanzio in the end zone to give the College’s offense the ball back with 3:21 left in the first quarter. However, this time the College was unable to cash in.
In the second quarter, the return of Dedmon, who was out for a majority of the 2017 season due to injury, paid dividends for the Tribe. Mitchell completed his first long pass of the season on a 42-yard bomb to Dedmon along the left sideline. The College failed to pick up another first down on the drive and Hooper missed a 44-yard field goal attempt that sailed just left of the uprights.
The Tribe drove into the red zone for the second time in the game as time wound down in the first half. However, Shon Mitchell threw his first interception of the game on a throw to the end zone with less than two minutes left in the quarter. Cornberback Fisayo Oluleye came up with the interception for the Bison. The Bison were unable to capitalize on the Mitchell interception and the two teams went to the locker room with the College still holding onto a 7-0 advantage.
Mitchell was solid for the Tribe in the first half, throwing for 141 yards and completing 14 of 20 pass attempts, as well as a rushing touchdown. Dedmon was the leading receiver in the first half for the College with 50 yards on two catches, while Funderburke had 45 yards on 10 carries. The Bison were led by Chiarolanzio’s 7 for 11 passing for 62 yards with one interception.
The Bison got the ball to start the second half, but the Tribe’s defense stood tall and forced a three-and-out. The College was able to pick up a first down, but failed to score. Despite out-possessing and out-gaining the Bison, the Tribe had only scored seven points, leaving the Bison in the game despite their poor offensive performance. The Bison had their best chance to score since their opening drive when they got the ball inside the Tribe’s 40-yard line, but once again they failed to pick up a first down and were forced to punt with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
With 14:54 left in the game, the Bison got the ball inside the Tribe’s 40-yard line once again after Mitchell was sacked and fumbled the ball. Defensive end Joe Schiano recorded the sack and picked up the ball to give the Bison great field position. This time, the Bison took advantage of the short field and scored a game-tying touchdown on a 12-yard run by running back Marquis Carter. They benefited from a defensive pass interference call on senior cornerback Raeshawn Smith on fourth down that extended the drive.
The Tribe got the ball back looking to regain its lead with 12:53 remaining in the 7-7 game. After going scoreless since the middle of the first quarter, the Tribe’s offense roared to life and reclaimed its seven-point lead. Dedmon caught a short pass from Mitchell and eluded several defenders en route to a 75-yard go-ahead score to put the College on top 14-7. The Bison had a chance to drive for a game-tying touchdown but the drive ended on a fumble by wide receiver Alan Butler at the Tribe’s 40-yard line with 1:40 remaining in the game. Junior safety Corey Parker recovered the fumble. However, the College went three-and-out and gave the Bison one last chance to send the game to overtime. The Bison were unable to reach the end zone before time expired, allowing the Tribe to eke out a 14-7 victory.
The Tribe were led in victory by Dedmon’s three receptions for 125 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Mitchell threw and ran for a touchdown and finished 21 for 32 passing with 267 yards. On defense, the College held the Bison to seven points and were led by junior linebacker Arman Jones’ 10 tackles, including two tackles for loss. In the loss, the Bison were led by Carter’s 18 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown.
The Tribe will look to remain undefeated next Saturday when it takes on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Hokies will pose a tough test to the College. They are ranked 20th in the Associated Press poll for Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The College opens its Colonial Athletic Association schedule in its home opener against Elon Sept. 15 at Zable Stadium.