Maybe the whispers around the William and Mary locker room are true.
``We have a little joke among ourselves that the only thing that can stop us is ourselves,'' Tribe wide receiver Mike Tomlin said. ``It's really starting to take form here.''
William and Mary carved up a good Massachusetts team 45-28 Saturday in front of 3,222 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium and took a big step toward cementing a Division I-AA playoff berth.
The Tribe (8-2 overall, 6-1 in the Yankee Conference) won its sixth consecutive game and remained one game behind Boston University in the league standings.
The Terriers (10-0, 7-0) defeated Connecticut 30-16 Saturday to remain unbeaten and in first place.
Behind a superior effort from quarterback Shawn Knight and the Tribe's offensive line, W&M rolled up 542 yards of total offense and punted only twice against a defense that came in allowing only 294 yards and 18.1 points per game.
``I'll tell you what: We threw the house at 'em,'' Massachusetts coach Mike Hodges said. ``We threw everything in the playbook at them and we still didn't slow them down.''
The Tribe's 45 points were the most the Minutemen had given up since a 54-10 loss to Holy Cross in 1987.
W&M's 224 yards rushing were the most allowed this season by UMass, which came in allowing a league-low 115 per game.
``We feel like we're on a roll,'' Tribe offensive guard Tom Walters said. ``When we're on the field, we feel like there's no one that can stop us. I guess that sounds like kind of a cocky attitude, but it's not meant to. We just know we can get the job done in a lot of different situations.''
There are few situations beyond Knight's control.
For the second consecutive week, he was superb on a slick field, completing 25 of 32 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns. When the Minutemen were able to get some pressure on him, he usually sidestepped it or sped away. He was sacked only twice officially by a UMass defense that had recorded 47 sacks in the first nine games.
``He's the best we've played against in a long, long time,'' Hodges said.
Knight said the Tribe came in respecting the Minutemen's defense, but confident of its ability to move the ball.
``If you go into a game doubting whether or not you can move the football, you're defeated already,'' he said. ``We're very confident in what we're doing offensively, and if we go out there and execute, we know we can move the football on anybody.''
Massachusetts (7-3, 4-3) got the Tribe's attention with a pair of quick touchdown drives in the third quarter, which sliced a 24-7 lead to 24-21.
The Tribe responded with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. The payoff came on third-and-goal from the 12-yard line, following a 5-yard illegal procedure penalty, when Tomlin soared high in the end zone for a spectacular, one-handed catch of a Knight pass that appeared too high.
``I was standing there watching it and it was, `Wow,' '' Walters said.
``When you're playing good, consistent ball, those kind of things happen to you,'' said Tomlin, a Denbigh High School product.
The Tribe defense forced Massachusetts' offense to go three plays-and-out on its next possession. W&M then drove 72 yards in six plays, with Knight connecting with Tomlin from 18 yards for a touchdown and a 38-21 lead.
``Obviously, they were getting some momentum,'' W&M coach Jimmye Laycock said of the Minutemen. ``We answered that. If you're looking for a key time in the game, maybe that was it.''
Massachusetts varied its defensive formations and alignments in an attempt to confuse the Tribe's offense. But W&M's efficiency and play-calling, in turn, kept the Minutemen off balance.
``They were obviously going to throw the ball on first down to try and stay away from some of our pressure, which was a great coaching move by them,'' Hodges said. ``It wasn't a normal flow of the game, as far as the play-calling from the other side of the field.
``So now you start trying to guess with them, so you're calling pass blitzes in run situations and they're running the football. It was a great move by them, and they did a nice job executing it.''
``They threw a lot of different things at us defensively,'' Laycock said. ``They had a lot of different wrinkles, it looked like, and things they were trying on defense. A less experienced team might have gotten frustrated by it, but they stuck with what they knew and executed it.''Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun