William & Mary Football: UVA’s Kryptonite (and other FBS programs too!)



William & Mary quarterback Steve Cluley, now entering his 3rd season as the starter, is poised for a big year. [photo: tribeathletics.com]
The first day of Summer is officially June 20. With the mosquitos out, suntan lotion generously applied (seriously, don’t forget to pack it!), bonfires crackling, and marshmallows sizzling, we couldn’t help ourselves but to begin thinking about W&M football’s summer training camp–which begins the second week in August to be exact.  Because it’s never too early to be talking about Tribe football, am I right? Before you know it, we’ll all be gravitating back to Williamsburg, donned in our beloved Green and Gold, to cheer on the Tribe in our newly renovated Zable Stadium. Anyone else can’t wait?

All of this got us at the W&M Sports Blog reminiscing about the Tribe’s recent successes on the gridiron. From last year’s regular season CAA Championship, to the program’s return to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs after a much-too-long hiatus, and to the team’s truly insane 16 players selected to All-CAA teams, it’s been quite a ride. However, there is something that Tribe football hasn’t done in recent years.

Yes, the team has come close to accomplishing this feat. In fact, four out of the last five seasons has seen the Tribe strike fear into the hearts of its opponents without finishing the job. Still don’t know what we’re talking about? We’re talking about the last time the Tribe knocked of an Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent of course! Tribe super fans will surely remember the team’s 2009 victory over UVA in Charlottesville. More recently than that, fans will remember the Green and Gold’s near victories over several notable FBS programs.

FBS vs. FCS Differences

Now we probably don’t need to remind you about the substantial advantages that FBS programs have over FCS programs, but we will just in case. You’ve survived the long winter (even though winter is just beginning for Jon Snow), haven’t thought about football in a while, and might need a refresher:

  • FBS college programs usually give 85 scholarships to 85 players.
  • FBS programs almost always reward these players with full scholarships.
  • FCS programs are limited to a max of 63 scholarships, which many FCS programs go under.
  • FCS schools tend to lean on giving away only partial scholarships, as opposed to full scholarships to its players.

So from this quick rehash, you can see that the Tribe is at a disadvantage from the get-go. With less players on scholarship, it’s far harder to recruit all of the best national/regional players (we still like to think we have some of the best in that nation, and certainly in all of FCS), and really overall, the bigger FBS programs allocate far more capital to their athletic programs than do smaller, FCS schools–especially in terms of facilities, scholarships, and overall emphasis on athletic programs. This is a simplified explanation, but it really does flesh out the biggest difference between FBS and FCS, and why FCS teams are at such a disadvantage when they step on the gridiron against these FBS behemoths.

But to each school their own. Some schools fit very well in the FCS model, and choose to allocate funds more toward academics (W&M), while others couldn’t imagine life without sports at the forefront (say, Alabama). All this being said makes it all the more impressive that, in recent years, the Green and Gold has stood toe-to-toe against FBS programs. In this article, we take a walk down memory lane and remind you of some of those times where W&M became kryptonite for not only UVA, but several other FBS schools, and look ahead to this year’s opening day opponent: the NC State Wolfpack.

wm feathers  vs.   UNC logo
October 30, 2010 

The year was 2010. At the time, William & Mary was riding an incredibly hot 6-game win streak. The team was sitting pretty, with a 6-1 overall record. Confident as ever, the Tribe walked into a raucous Kenan Memorial Stadium, ready to take on the mighty UNC Tar Heels.

W&M quickly went up 6-0 and led at the end of the first quarter on a sharp Michael Paulus touchdown pass to wide receiver Chase Hill. However, the Tar Heels would not back down, promptly scoring on senior T.J. Yates (most recently with the NFL’s Houston Texans) 1-yard quarterback sneak, putting the Heels ahead 7-6. However, it was the Tribe who led the game at the end of the half: Paulus again connected with Hill, converted on a 2-point conversion pass to tight end Alex Gottlieb, and Drake Kuhn tacked on another field goal to end the second quarter. Tribe 17 UNC 7. In their house.

After a scoreless third quarter to start the second half, the Tribe was sitting pretty with a 10-point lead over UNC. However, the Heels would go on to score 14 unanswered points, including a staggering 67-yard touchdown run by Johnny White. This fourth quarter performance was enough to put the Heels ahead for good. End score: UNC 21 Tribe 17. Suffice to say, W&M struck fear in the Heels that day, and almost shocked the ACC football world. It portended good things to come, as W&M would win the CAA that year and qualify for the FCS Playoffs.

wm feathers vs. UMD logo
September 1, 2012

This was not a pretty year for either of these teams. And that’s putting it lightly. Maryland would go on to finish the year 4-8, while the Tribe would finish with an even worse 2-9 record. What’s more, this game would finish with a hilariously low score, as both teams had trouble finding the end zone. But again, as is the theme in this article, the Green and Gold would nearly knock off yet another ACC opponent. In their house.

The Turtles (sorry, we had to) turned the ball over four times in this game, including three turnovers in the first quarter quarter alone. W&M would take advantage, but not as much as they should have. At the end of the first quarter, the Tribe led 6-0 on two field goal conversions by kicker Drake Kuhn. Maryland’s young freshman quarterback Perry Hills did not have a memorable game, finishing with 145 yards, 0 TD, and 3 INT (one coming courtesy of W&M’s recently drafted DeAndre Houston-Carson), however, W&M QBs didn’t fare much better. Starter Brent Caprio finished for 25 yards, 0 TD, and 1 INT before Raphael Ortiz came in en route to 100 yards, 0 TD, and 0 INT.

With only two field goals, the Tribe maintained the lead all the way up until the 9:52 mark in the fourth quarter, when Maryland finally found pay dirt on a 6-yard Justus Pickett touchdown run. The extra point gave Maryland the final point they needed to finish the game on top, as the Tribe offense couldn’t muster any more points to win the game. Final score: Turtles 7 Tribe 6. However, this game marked the second time in two years that the Tribe had almost defeated yet another ACC squad. Impressive, to say the least.

wm feathers  vs. WVU logo
August 31, 2013

It was the first game of the 2013 season, and William & Mary football was looking to turn over a new leaf, following a dismal 2-9 season the year prior. The opening day opponent wasn’t helping much, as the Tribe found itself tasked with marching into Mountaineer Field, one of the rowdiest venues in all of college football, and snatching victory away from WVU faithful. Again, the game was full of ups and downs , and was surely one to remember before it was all said and done.

WVU began the game strong with an early 11-yard touchdown run by Charles Sims (currently with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers). However, the Tribe would soon respond with a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Graham to Darnell Laws. 7-7 at the end of the first. In the second quarter, it was all William & Mary. The Green and Gold would score on a 5-yard Michael Graham scamper, and a 29-yard field goal by John Carpenter to go into half time with a 17-7 lead. Again, in their house.

Unfortunately, the Tribe couldn’t hang on in the second half. The Mountaineers came alive, tacking on 10 points in the third quarter to tie the game up before scoring one more touchdown in the fourth to end the game. Seventeen unanswered points by the Mountaineers. Final score: WVU 24 Tribe 17. But in front of one of the best home-field advantages in all of college football, W&M took a step forward in this game, which foreshadowed good things to come that season. The Green and Gold would finish the season with five more wins than the previous year, at 7-5, narrowly missing the FCS Playoffs.

wm feathers vs. UVA logo
September 20, 2015

Really, these guys again? You’d think they’d learned their lesson after playing the Tribe in 2009, but they keep coming. It’s okay, we welcome the in-state rivalry. After all, they are W&M’s little brother (where’d their beloved TJ go to college?). Anyways, “UVa” found themselves pitted against a strong Tribe team last season, again in Charlottesville. The Tribe was more than up to the task. UVA fluttered. But in the end, it was yet another game to remember for Virginia’s best (academic?) rivalry. Roll Tribe.

In this one, W&M, with a second-year QB at the helm in Steve Cluley, came out guns firing in its new spread offense. Cluley would finish the game with an incredible 226 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INT. Far different from the Tribe’s passing stats against Maryland in the game noted above. Tribe running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor would also finish the game well with 22 carries for 100 yards, as his running mate Kendell Anderson also finished with 8 carries for 51 yards.

In the first quarter, W&M opened up the scoring, courtesy of a highlight reel 41-yard touchdown pass from Cluley to sophomore receiver DeVonte Dedmon. Dedmon was interfered with on the play, ultimately catching the ball while laying down on his back in the endzone. Wow. But the Cavaliers would quickly strike back on a 3-yard touchdown pass courtesy of QB Matt Johns. In the second quarter, both teams would exchange blows, as the Green and Gold scored another touchdown on a 37-yard trick play pass to tight end Andrew Caskin and tacked on two field goals by kicker Nick Dorka Jr. At the half, UVA led just 21-20.

However, a weak showing in the third quarter is what did the Tribe in. UVA connected on both a long 80-yard touchdown pass and a 74-yard punt return TD in the third quarter to put them ahead 35-20. The Tribe nearly mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter after forcing a safety and connecting on a 4-yard touchdown pass (Dedmon’s second of the game). But it was too little too late as the final minute ticked off the clock. Final score: UVA 35 Tribe 29. But boy, was it fun to scare them on their own turf.

wm feathers vs. nc state logo
September 1, 2016

After near hits and misses against recent FBS opponents, and certainly against ACC teams, we think that this is the year. One thing of serious note for the games listed above is that, in nearly all of them, the FBS schools W&M played were in the middle of a quarterback change. Because W&M usually plays against its FBS opponent for the first game of the season, the Tribe typically has the opportunity to take advantage if their opponent happens to have a younger QB underneath the helm.

Coach Laycock and his squad seem to have the magic touch, as they definitely know how to confuse a young quarterback. In 2012, Maryland’s Perry Ellis was a freshman (3 INT). In 2013, WVU QB Paul Millard was in his first full season as the starting quarterback. And just last year, UVA’s Matt Johns was in his first year with UVA (2 INT). If history is any indication, William & Mary performs very well against teams in transition at the quarterback position. And guess what? NC State is doing just that.

Following the end of the last year, NC State’s quarterback Jacoby Brissett was drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots. That means that the Wolfpack will need to select a new player to lead the team from under center. And his first game will be against the Tribe. Can you hear us licking our chops? Practically salivating for this game. Time will tell if the Tribe will finally get over the hump. But with a 3rd-year starting quarterback in Steve Cluley, the CAA’s best rusher in Kendell Anderson, and a potent offensive air attack bolstered by now-junior receiver DeVonte Dedmon, the Tribe looks absolutely dangerous on offense.

So enjoy summer while you can Tribe fans, because starting Thursday, September 1st at 7:30 PM, your Green and Gold will travel to NC State to take on the Wolfpack. And we’re predicting a victory. This is the year. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

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