Phew, we didn’t see that coming. The Tribe just narrowly escaped a huge letdown against the NEC champion Duquesne Dukes on Saturday, but hey, it’s a win. Survive and advance. W&M got out to a slow start, especially on defense, as the Dukes jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. However, the Tribe would respond with 28 unanswered points, and lead for the rest of the game–but not without some scares up until the end. It was a shootout, nail-biting game all the way to the final minute, which saw the Tribe advance to the second round of the FCS playoffs.
First Half Summary
On the very first play of the first drive, Duquesne unloaded a 71-yard touchdown pass. W&M’s Trey Reed was on the coverage, and was actually with the receiver step-for-step. However, Duquesne’s Chris King snatched the ball out of the hands of an airborne Reed and scampered untouched into the end zone. The Tribe would go 3-and-out on its first drive, punting the ball back to the Dukes.
Duquesne began its second drive from its own 46, marched down the field, and connected on another passing touchdown, the second in as many drives. Even after this terrible start for the Tribe, there was plenty of time left on the clock. W&M drove down the field on the very next drive, which ended with a beautifully executed deep post route run by receiver DeVonte Dedmon and an on-the-money ball thrown by quarterback Steve Cluley, 36 yards for the touchdown.
On the next Duquesne possession, Trey Reed made up for his early-game blunder and picked off Dillon Buechel, setting the Tribe up at the Dukes’ 40. This drive was capped by yet another DeVonte Dedmon touchdown, this time on a short pass that he took to the house on a 24-yard catch and run.
Midway through the second quarter, the Tribe had tacked on two more touchdowns, first on a long drive ending with a Kendell Anderson touchdown run and another on a two-yard touchdown run by captain Mikal Abdul-Saboor. The Tribe tacked on 28 unanswered points as the defense stiffened and the offense settled in. But Duquesne wasn’t done yet. The Dukes would march down the field and score another passing touchdown in the second quarter, bringing the score to 28-21.
Right as the half was about to come to an end, and with less than a minute to play, W&M offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers and head coach Jimmye Laycock elected to pass, rather than take a knee and go to the locker room. Steve Cluley made an ill-advised pass, and was picked off. This resulted in 3 more points for Duquesne, as the score going into half was 28-24.
Second Half Summary
In the second half, and after a W&M Nick Dorka field goal, the score was still within one touchdown, 31-24. This is when the game-defining moment happened. Duquesne had marched down the field, and was about to attempt a field goal. Out of nowhere, captain Tyler Claytor burst through the middle of the line, got his big paw on the ball, and BLOCKED the field goal. Claytor then waited for his fellow captain DeAndre Houston-Carson to pick up the ball and spring down the field for a TOUCHDOWN. This was Claytor’s THIRD blocked kick of the year (remember he blocked an insane two kicks in the JMU game–and actually blocked a third that was called back due to penalty). Wow. Score: 38-24 Tribe.
The rest of the game, the Tribe and the Dukes traded blows, as the W&M defense got shredded through the air. Thankfully, the Green and Gold was able to lead throughout and prevail as time expired, 52-49. Duquesne’s quarterback, Dillon Buechel, ended with the best game of his career, passing for 423 yds, 6 TD, 2 INT. W&M’s Steve Cluley had mixed results, as he passed for 251 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT. W&M’s Kendell Anderson had a good game, rushing for 137 yds and 2 TD. Duquesne had one receiver with 221 yds and 1 TD, another with 3 TD, and another with 2 TD. W&M’s DeVonte Dedmon finished with 3 receptions, 99 yds, and 3 TD. Like we said, it was a shootout.
The Good: Resilience. The Tribe found itself down 0-14 to start the game. However, the team always kept its heads up on the sideline and never let it get to them. The offense got into a groove, and the defense stiffened when needed. And how about that blocked kick for a W&M TOUCHDOWN courtesy of captains DeAndre Houston-Carson and Tyler Claytor. My goodness, that was sweet–and certainly was the play of the game. It was also nice to see the offense again keep pace in a shootout. We did the same against JMU; this never would have been possible a couple years ago. Happy to see we’re back up there with the big boys now on the offensive side of the ball.
The Bad: The W&M pass defense. Every time the Dukes wanted to throw the ball, it seemed like they were successful. So much so, that they barely even ran the ball. Their quarterback finished with an insane 400+ yards and 6 touchdowns. That’s absolutely unacceptable. We’ve played against more high-powered offenses than Duquesne’s (Richmond and JMU), and have not been subjected to that sort of punishment. Serious adjustments will need to be made this week before the Richmond game. Also, why didn’t we kneel the ball going into the half? You never expect Steve Cluley to make that sort of ill-advised throw, but you also don’t expect the coaches to put him in that situation. Yes, another field goal before half would have been nice, but it also would have been nice to go into the half with a lead greater than 4 points. It was a head scratcher, for sure.
Around the FCS Playoff Bracket: On W&M’s side of the bracket, Western Illinois defeated Dayton 24-7, setting up a second-round contest vs. #2-seeded Illinois State. In terms of other CAA teams: UNH lost to the Patriot League’s Colgate, 27-20. Colgate will move on and play JMU in the second round. W&M, of course will advance and play Richmond. Enough said. You can check out the full FCS Playoff bracket here.
Look Ahead: W&M’s victory sets up a huge rematch with the #7-seeded Richmond Spiders. Words can’t express how big this game will be. The Tribe will travel to Richmond for the second time this season in the biggest matchup these two teams have had in several years. We at the WM Sports Blog thoroughly believe that if we take it to them in their house, now in the playoffs, all our recent losses to them won’t mean a thing. It’s time to do this. In the playoffs. Right now. Be on the lookout for our Preview article soon. LET’S GO TRIBE.