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The No. 13 William & Mary football team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Playoffs with a 52-49 victory against Duquesne at Zable Stadium on Saturday evening.
Although DU (8-4) jumped out to an early 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the contest, W&M (9-3) responded with four unanswered touchdowns and never relinquished the lead.
Sophomore wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon led the Tribe offensively with three touchdown catches and 225 all-purpose yards, while junior running back Kendell Anderson rushed for 137 yards on 24 carries with two scores. Junior quarterback Steve Cluley finished the contest 11-of-15 for 251 yards with two touchdown passes.
Despite being outgained, 540-480, and committing four turnovers, W&M posted its highest point total since scoring 52 in a win against VMI in 2008 en route to improving to 6-0 at home this season.
DU quarterback Dillon Buechel provided much of the Dukes’ offense, as he completed 33-of-53 passes for 423 yards with six touchdowns. Wideout Chris King accounted for 12 catches for 221 yards with a score, while Wayne Capers totaled three touchdown receptions.
After recording a 71-yard touchdown pass from Buechel to King on the first play from scrimmage, the Dukes built a 14-0 lead following a 6-yard toss from Buechel to Nehari Crawford with 9:14 left in the opening quarter.
However, the college responded with four unanswered touchdowns to take a 28-14 advantage. The first two scores came on strikes of 38 yards and 24 yards to Dedmon that were separated by less than two minutes.
A 3-yard touchdown run by Anderson early in the second quarter and a 2-yard score by senior running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor with 3:58 left in the half completed the stretch.
Three of the four touchdowns drives came after big defensive plays – an interception by junior cornerback Trey Reed, a fourth-down stand and a stopped fake punt.
Duquesne narrowed the margin to 28-24 with 10 points in the final minute of the half. Buechel connected with Crawford on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 0:41 left, and Austin Crimmins made a 39-yard field goal with just 0:02 on the clock. The field goal was set up after linebacker Carter Henderson intercepted Cluley at W&M’s 38-yard line.
After a 20-yard field goal by sophomore Nick Dorka early in the third quarter, W&M went ahead 38-24 when senior free safety DeAndre Houston-Carson returned a field goal blocked by senior defensive tackle Tyler Claytor 65 yards for a touchdown. It was Claytor’s fourth block this season, while Houston-Carson returned a blocked PAT for a score earlier this fall.
After the teams traded touchdowns late in the third quarter and early in the fourth – W&M’s coming on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Cluley to Dedmon – Duquesne continued to mount its comeback bid. Following a 5-yard touchdown pass from Buechel to Capers, Crimmins connected on a 35-yard field goal to draw the Dukes within 45-41 midway through the fourth quarter.
The Tribe followed with a seven-play, 68-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown run by Anderson with 3:17remaining. All seven plays came on the ground.
A 42-yard touchdown pass from Buechel to Capers with 1:11 left, which was followed by a successful 2-point conversion, narrowed the margin to 52-49, but Houston-Carson recovered the ensuing onside kick and W&M ran out the clock to preserve the win.
In addition to his special teams touchdown, Houston-Carson totaled 10 tackles, while Reed finished the game with a career-high 11 tackles to go with his interception. Sophomore cornerback Raeshawn Smith also posted a pick, while Claytor’s stat line included a sack and two tackles for a loss in addition to the block.
W&M will return to action when it plays its second round game at Richmond noon Saturday. The two teams met in the regular season finale Nov. 21 when the Spiders earned a 20-9 victory. The game will be broadcast by ESPN3.