Football: Tribe falters to No. 2 JMU despite second half comeback


Saturday, Nov. 13, No. 25 William and Mary lost to No. 2 JMU 32-22 at Zable Stadium. The game marked the final match-up between the two Colonial Athletic Association foes for at least several years as the Dukes move to the Football Bowl Subdivision and Sun Belt Conference next season.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed in the final result,” head coach Mike London said in a post-game press conference. “We just played the number two team in the country, and they beat us. But there are some things we left out on the field and can be better to make us more competitive.”

The Tribe kept the game close for the majority of the first half, holding the Dukes to just two field goals before the two-minute warning. However, an efficient five-play drive from JMU that ended in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Duke quarterback Cole Johnson to Duke wide receiver Kris Thornton extended their lead to 13-0 at the half.

Despite having no turnovers, William and Mary was unable to put any points on the board in the first half. Junior quarterback Hollis Mathis completed just three passes for 25 yards, and the Tribe managed only 80 yards, compared to the Dukes’ impressive 230 yards.

JMU carried their offensive momentum into the second half, tacking on another field goal to extend their lead to 16-0. On William and Mary’s ensuing possession, Mathis threw the only interception of the day. The Dukes capitalized on the turnover when Johnson rushed into the end zone to make the score 23-0.

Johnson finished the game with 334 passing yards and one passing touchdown, which was good enough for a rating of 131.2. He also finished with 46 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.

The Tribe reminded fans of their strong rushing abilities when they scored two quick touchdowns in the middle of the second half. The first drive lasted only three plays and ended with a 53-yard rushing touchdown from redshirt freshman running back Malachi Imoh. The next drive took just one more play and ended in a 46-yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Bronson Yoder.

“The second half, we came back and played much better,” London said. “That’s the mark of a team that doesn’t quit. This team has been resilient all year.”


Narrowing the lead to just 10 points after Yoder’s touchdown, London decided to attempt a two-point conversion to reduce the lead to just a one-score game. His decision paid off and Yoder capitalized on his touchdown by rushing the ball into the right side of the end zone.

William and Mary totaled 207 rushing yards on the day, with 101 of those yards coming from Imoh.

Despite being on the road, the Dukes brought an impressive fan section. However, their section of the stands fell quiet after Yoder’s two-point conversion, sparking a sense of fear in the Dukes’ playoff rankings.

After two drives that ended in punts, JMU reasserted their control on offense. The Dukes drove down the field three times in the fourth quarter, but the Tribe held them to a field goal on each possession. JMU redshirt senior kicker Ethan Ratke tallied six field goals on the day, all from within the 30-yard line.

A touchdown in the final minutes of the game sparked some energy into the Tribe fanbase when Mathis completed a 45-yard pass to senior wide receiver Cole Blackman. However, the late comeback was not enough, and the final score ended at 32-22 in favor of the Dukes.

Saturday’s game marked Mathis’ first start since injuring his shoulder against Lafayette last spring. 

“The goal for us was to run the ball but also use Hollis and his ability to run kind of the triple option aspects,” London said. “He was throwing the ball and wasn’t having any effects on his shoulder. He was mentally alert and ready, so we made that decision to go with him.”

William and Mary will host Richmond next Saturday, Nov. 20, in the final game of the regular season.


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