Since coming to William & Mary as a freshman in 2011, I already feel like I’ve seen it all. The good seasons. The bad seasons. The in-between seasons. Having written the W&M Sports Blog for nearly 9 years now, nary missing a single game live since 2011, I don’t believe it’s an understatement to say that this Saturday’s playoff tilt against Gardner-Webb is by far William & Mary’s biggest game since 2010.
But I hear you, avid Tribe fans. Indeed, W&M has qualified for the playoffs twice since 2010. In fact, I remember W&M’s most recent postseason appearance well. After enduring four playoff-less seasons as an undergrad from 2011-2015, I again passed through Zable Stadium’s fabled arches in the Winter of 2015 with my spirit renewed. A newly minted alum of the College, I was there to witness the Green and Gold’s much awaited return to the FCS Playoffs, the team’s first postseason appearance since 2010. W&M took on the Duquesne Dukes that day, on November 28, 2015. That’s right, the same day this article is being published — exactly seven years later.
That 52-49 shootout victory for W&M over Duquesne saw W&M quarterback Steve Cluley connect for three touchdowns with one of the greatest W&M receivers ever to wear the green and gold, DeVonte Dedmon. Another W&M great in running back Kendell Anderson gashed Duquesne on the ground to the tune of 137 yards and two touchdowns. And yes, W&M boasted more than one great running back then, as it does today, as Anderson’s running mate Mikal Abdul-Saboor tacked on 52 yards and a touchdown rushing. Unfortunately for that team though, the Tribe would fall in the second round of the playoffs at the hands of none other than arch-rival Richmond. And suffice to say, that game was a bit of a blowout. And yes, I was there at Robins Stadium that day in Richmond too.
But let’s also not forget the Tribe’s 2010 campaign, which came a season before I arrived to campus. It was because of this very team that W&M began the 2011 campaign as the nation’s #1-ranked team in the FCS. For in 2010, William & Mary nearly knocked out FBS foe UNC on the road, losing just 17-21 in a hard fought battle. That same season, W&M defeated #1 Villanova, #2 Delaware, #8 New Hampshire, and #18 Richmond. That W&M team also boasted several all-time W&M greats, including the greatest running back in W&M history, Jonathan Grimes — in addition to several other greats such as B.W. Webb, Dante Cook, and many others. Unfortunately for this team though, the Tribe would fall in the first round of the FCS Playoffs against #20-ranked Georgia Southern.
Despite their greatness, both the 2015 and 2010 teams could not do what this year’s William & Mary team has already done. That is, neither of them finished their regular seasons boasting the best record in W&M school history. Since future National College Hall of Famer W&M Head Coach Jimmye Laycock retired, current W&M Head Coach Mike London has built today’s Tribe team for the modern era. From new jersey styles to new recruiting pipelines and updated play calling schemes, London’s results on the field speak for themselves. Finishing the season with a sparkling 10-1 record against what is still in my opinion the strongest conference in the FCS in the CAA, London has the Tribe winning games and shattering records not seen since Tribe football’s golden years, dating back in the mid-1940s.
But can this Tribe team do what no other has done in program history…can they go all the way? We all know Mike London can do it. In 2008, London took Richmond all the way as Head Coach of the Spiders, earning the school its first National Championship in any sport. This season, London’s Tribe team already boasts two significant pieces of hardware: a CAA Championship trophy and the Capital Cup trophy. Those are nice, but London knows they’re not the ultimate goal. Sporting the best record in W&M football program history, a program dating all the way back to 1893, London has his guys believing. And believing is half the battle.
The Tribe’s first test on the road to greatness manifests itself this Saturday in the form of the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs. The reason I believe this game to be the biggest for W&M in the past decade is, simply put, because this Tribe team has accomplished every other goal there is to accomplish. Win the CAA? CHECK. Finish with the best record in program history? CHECK. Beat Richmond and take home the Capital Cup? CHECK. What’s left? Truly, there’s only one more thing to do. And that’s to go out and win a National Championship.
Yes, the 2015 and 2010 teams also made the playoffs. And yes, the 2015 team even won a playoff game before falling in the second round. But both of those teams finished their regular seasons with 8-3 records; neither of them were expected to contend for a National Championship the way this year’s Tribe team is. The bar has been set, and it cannot go any higher. It’s time to make history, as William & Mary has done since 1693.
As I return to campus this Saturday to root on my Green and Gold, I’ll be sure to remind myself of all the great W&M players of old that have come through Williamsburg. From NFL Hall of Famer Lou Creekmur to College Football Hall of Famer Buster Ramsey. From legendary running back Jonathan Grimes to all-time great Mike Tomlin. I’ll remember that this year’s Tribe team has already accomplished something that none of their predecessors were able to accomplish. But can this year’s team accomplish one more thing the others did not…by winning the program’s first-ever National Championship?
I believe they can.
See you at Zable this Saturday. LET’S GO TRIBE!
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