Saturday, Oct. 8, William and Mary football (5-1, 2-1 CAA) defeated Delaware 27-21 (5-1, 3-1 CAA) in its annual Homecoming game at Zable Stadium.
“Our players had a never quit, never die-attitude,” head coach Mike London said.
After winning the coin toss, Delaware elected to receive the ball. The Tribe defense stood strong, forcing a three-and-out on the Delaware’s’ first two possessions of the game. To conclude Delaware’s second possession, sixth-year punter Ben Dinkel booted a 60-yard punt to pin the Tribe on their own two-yard line.
“I remember walking out there for three plays and then walking back off. It felt good. It’s always good when it’s three-and-outs,” senior cornerback Ryan Poole said.
Immediately following a six-yard rush from senior running back Donavyn Lester for the opening first down of the game, sophomore quarterback Darius Wilson launched a pass to Lester on the right side of the field. The pass totaled 32-yards and advanced the Tribe near midfield. Several plays later, Wilson connected with senior tight end Lachlan Pitts up the middle of the field for a 26-yard completion. Throughout the drive, William and Mary ran a no-huddle offense on five plays.
Delaware managed to hold the Tribe at the edge of the redzone, bringing in sophomore kicker Ethan Chang for the field goal. However, one week removed from his 57-yard field goal, marking a new school record, Chang’s attempt was unsuccessful. Fifth-year defensive back Justis Henley blocked the 39-yard kick to keep the score even at zero.
On the opening play of the ensuing Delaware drive, sophomore linebacker John Pius sacked graduate student quarterback Nolan Henderson for a seven-yard loss. Only able to move the ball two-yard on the next two plays, Dinkel punted to Tribe senior wide receiver Caylin Newton at the William and Mary 40-yard line.
After a successful third down conversion to advance the Tribe into Blue Hen territory, the home team faced a third and long. Wilson rushed the ball up the middle, forcing London to make a tough call. He decided to keep the offense on the field for the short fourth down attempt, which proved successful. Wilson rushed up the middle again for another six-yard gain.
After several plays and a short break to begin the second quarter, the Tribe found their way into the Delaware redzone. On the first play of the second quarter, Wilson passed 16-yards to the left side of the field to senior wide receiver Caylin Newton for a first down. Two plays later on second and four, senior running back Bronson Yoder rushed towards the left sideline for the first score of the game. A successful kick attempt from Chang made the Tribe lead 7-0.
After another three-and-out for the Blue Hens, the visiting fan section became quiet. However, on the next Tribe possession, Wilson threw an interception to graduate student linebacker Drew Nickles at the William and Mary 38-yard line, setting Delaware up in great position.
On the first play of Delaware’s drive, senior running back Kyron Cumby rushed to the right and all the way to the endzone for a 38-yard score.
On the kickoff return, sophomore wide receiver DreSean Kendrick ran 39-yards to start the next Tribe possession near midfield. Throughout the drive, William and Mary relied on their run game. Stopped at the Delaware 26-yard line, Chang came in to kick a 44-yard field goal and retake the lead 10-7.
After barely holding Delaware out of field goal range, the Tribe retook possession on their own nine-yard line with just under four minutes remaining in the first half. On third and six, Yoder rushed up the middle for a 28-yard gain. With less than two minutes remaining in the half, the Tribe relied on their ground game again, rushing five times in a row before calling another timeout. On first and 10, Wilson received the snap and shuffled the ball to sophomore running back Malachi Imoh. Imoh launched the ball to the right side of the endzone where Pitts secured the second Tribe touchdown of the game, extending their lead to double digits. The score at halftime remained at 17-7, sending a jolt of Tribe pride through the stands.
“In the first half, the legs were fresh and we felt good out there,” Poole said.
The Tribe began the third quarter with what initially looked like a three-and-out. After a 47-yard punt from senior kicker Will Whitehurst, Delaware graduate student Zane Lewis muffed the return. He picked the ball back up but Newton forced it back out. Both teams scurried to grab the ball, but Tribe sophomore wide receiver JT Mayo got on top of it first at the Delaware 23-yard line. After four rushing plays, Wilson ended the drive with another rush to the left for another Tribe touchdown.
Now down by three scores, Delaware became desperate to put points on the board on their next drive. A series of no-huddle plays threw the Tribe off guard. On the drive, the Tribe defense committed several costly penalties that advanced the Delaware down field. Henderson ended the drive with a short pass to senior wide receiver Jourdan Townsend to pull the visitors within 11 points. However, freshman placekicker Garrett Bennion missed the extra point.
After a Tribe three-and-out, Delaware was ready to build on their momentum. Contrary to the Tribe offense, Delaware elected for seven pass plays and just one rush play. From the Tribe’s three-yard line, Henderson ended the drive with a short left pass to graduate student wide receiver Chandler Harvin. A successful two-point conversion withstood official review and closed the Tribe lead to just three points.
Delaware’s offense then took over from their own 13-yard line. After Pius recorded another sack on Henderson, the quarterback ran up the middle for a 20-yard gain. On the next play, Henderson passed 27-yards to the left where he found Townsend again in Tribe territory. London called a timeout to slow down the Blue Hen offense.
However, London’s timeout failed to phase the red hot visitors. Delaware junior running back Marcus Yarns rushed for 33-yards to the Tribe endzone. While the Delaware fan section erupted into cheers, a yellow flag lay on the field. A facemask penalty on Delaware nullified the touchdown, leading to a sigh of relief from the Tribe fan section, including former National Football League star Cam Newton.
Two plays later, Henderson rushed up the middle for another 23-yard gain to the redzone. But on third and six, Delaware fumbled the ball, turning possession back over to William and Mary and changing the entire atmosphere of Zable Stadium.
Taking over control, William and Mary gave up two offensive penalties, setting them up for a third and 11. But, Wilson managed another long pass down the middle to Mayo to bring the Tribe to the center of the W&M logo at midfield. Delaware held the Tribe at the 32-yard line, bringing in Chang for another field goal attempt. However, Chang missed the kick, keeping the score at 24-21.
With less than five minutes remaining in the game, the Tribe defense held strong on third and six, forcing a Delaware incompletion. From their own 43-yard line, head coach Ryan Carty decided to go for it on fourth down. Another incomplete pass from Henderson put the Tribe back on offense.
Yoder began the drive with four straight rushes, prompting a Delaware timeout. Unable to convert on third and long, Chang came back on the field for another field goal attempt. This time, he converted from 41-yards out to extend the Tribe lead to 27-21.
With 1 minute 45 seconds left in the game, Delaware began their final drive. Facing a fourth and long, Henderson passed down the middle to graduate student tight end Bryce de Maille for a pivotal first down completion. On third and one, Delaware called a timeout to stop the clock at 33 seconds. Yarns then rushed up the mile for a 14-yard gain. Unable to move the ball to the redzone, Delaware made a last-ditch effort in the final seconds of the game to score a touchdown. However, after four lateral passes and two fumbles on the play, Tribe junior defensive lineman Nate Lynn recovered the ball to end the game at 27-21.
“At the end, I thought they might have gone for a Hail Mary,” London said. “It got kind of dicey out there for a moment, but we practice for that all the time.”
William and Mary outrushed Delaware 271 to 128 yards. The Tribe also nearly doubled Delaware in time of possession.
After a week off, the Tribe will return to action next Saturday, Oct. 22 at Towson (2-4, 0-3 CAA).
“What a great time for the bye week to come so we can take care of ourselves, develop some younger players that will probably have to play for us as we go down the second half of the season, and to come off a positive experience like tonight’s is great,” London said.