Tuesday, October 3, 2023

No. 8 W&M Tribe Football puts it all together in 45-12 blowout of Villanova

(Courtesy W&M Athletics)

The previous week at Hampton, William & Mary had won largely in spite of itself. Not so on this Saturday, with a chance to all but clinch a playoff spot on the line.

The No. 8 Tribe clicked everywhere and for all four quarters in a 45-12 win over Villanova at Zable Stadium. The offense piled up a season-best 582 yards, its most since 2010, and scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions. The defense allowed only a couple of field goals until the game’s final five minutes.

W&M’s best overall game of the season? It has to be.

“I think that scoreboard shows that for sure,” said defensive end Carl Fowler, who may or may not have played his final game at Zable. “We were on our Ps and Qs from the start, and that played out on the scoreboard and the stats as well.”

Did it ever. In addition to total yards, W&M had season highs in points and rushing yards (371) and for the third time this season didn’t turn the ball over. The defense was working on a season low in points allowed until Villanova scored a touchdown with 4:23 remaining.

With its sixth consecutive win, William & Mary (9-1, 6-1 CAA) virtually assured itself of a spot in the FCS playoffs. The Tribe has a chance to clinch at least a share of the conference championship next week with a win at Richmond.

“I’m just happy for these guys to be in the discussion of extended postseason play and the chance to play for a championship in the CAA,” W&M coach Mike London said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s the toughest conference, I believe, in FCS football.”

The Tribe’s offense has been explosive all season, but not quite to this extent. Of its first 34 plays from scrimmage, seven resulted in gains of at least 22 yards. That included quarterback Darius Wilson’s 55-yard touchdown run and 87-yard scoring pass to Tyler Rose. William & Mary averaged 9.5 yards a play.

Wilson accounted for 306 total yards (211 passing, 95 rushing) and four touchdown. He completed 12-of-15 passes, five of which went to tight end Lachlan Pitts (including an 11-yard touchdown).

Bronson Yoder rushed for 133 yards, his third consecutive week in triple digits, on 14 carries. He scored a touchdown for the fourth game in a row. Donavyn Lester ran for 95 yards and scored, and Malachi Imoh added 53 yards.

It was the first time since the season opener at Charlotte that the Tribe rushed for at least 300 yards while also passing for 200 or more.

“(That’s) extremely important for us to be the team we want to be and accomplish the things we want to accomplish,” Wilson said. “When we’re balanced, we become unpredictable. And when we’re unpredictable, I don’t think any team can stop us.”

Yoder also sees it that way.

“It’s going to be difficult for a team to cover the field vertically and horizontally,” he said. “When we’re hitting on our deep shots and we’re running the ball hard, which one are you going to stop?

“They were scrambling to find a way to stop us. We were firing on all cylinders today.”

The Tribe’s defense gave up 344 total yards, 75 coming on Villanova’s lone touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

“To come out and play an intentional, physical, productive game, the coaches put together a great plan,” London said. “But even more important, the players executed a great plan.”

William & Mary will finish with at least nine regular season wins for the first time since the 2009 season, when it made the NCAA semifinals. That’s a giant leap from Fowler’s true freshman season in 2017, when the Tribe lost its final eight games to finish 2-9.

“That (improvement) over the last six years is incredible to be a part of,” he said. “It pretty much goes without saying that winning is better than losing. And we’ve been doing a lot of winning.”

With 972 yards going into Saturday’s regular-season finale at Richmond, Yoder needs 28 yards to become the Tribe’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Kendell Anderson in 2016. Saturday was his ninth career 100-yard game, which ties him for ninth-most in program history. …
W&M’s 582 total yards are its most since gaining 616 against Richmond in 2010. The 33-point victory margin is the Tribe’s biggest against Villanova since a 45-10 win in 1999. …
DreSean Kendrick’s scored his first career touchdown with a 19-yard reception in the fourth quarter. Last season, Kendrick threw a 29-yard touchdown pass. …
Wilson has not been sacked in the Tribe’s last five games.

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