WILLIAMSBURG — It doesn't get a whole lot better for William and Mary football these days than it did Saturday.
The No. 15 Tribe's 24-10 win over No. 6 New Hampshire at Zable Stadium produced a career rushing leader, a school record for individual sacks in a game, and three times as many plays of better than 40 yards than in the previous six games combined.
Oh, and it might just have saved the season. If you subscribe to the belief that the Tribe (4-3, 2-2 Colonial Athletic Association) must win its final five games to return to the FCS playoffs, hope still lives in the Laycock Football Center.
"All the guys, we got together last night, we wanted it, we talked about it," said Tribe defensive end Marcus Hyde, whose five sacks shattered the previous school record of 3 1/2 . "I didn't want my season to be done after Richmond (Nov. 19).
"I want to go in the playoffs — win, fight or die — and I thought we fought really well today."
The defense in particular had to scrap against a New Hampshire offense ranked fourth nationally with an average of 40.2 points and seventh nationally at 452 yards per game. The Wildcats (4-2, 1-1) exceeded their total offense average by netting 517 yards, but the bend-but-don't break Tribe defense held them to a season low in points with seven clutch third- or fourth-down stops.
A William and Mary offense that had just one play of better than 40 yards on the season scored three touchdowns of 50 yards or more each. Jonathan Grimes ran for 169 yards to run his career rushing total to 3,768 yards, breaking Derek Fitzgerald's 16-year-old school record of 3,744.
But it was Grimes' receptions on simple screens that he broke for electrifying touchdowns of 72 and 50 yards that were his biggest plays of the beautiful sunny afternoon. His second touchdown gave the Tribe a 14-10 lead with 8:57 to play in the third quarter, before Keith McBride's 50-yard run with 12:42 to play in the game gave the Tribe a 21-10 lead and control of the see-saw battle.
Grimes broke six tackles, the final two with a spin move, to take the dump pass 72 yards to paydirt and give the Tribe a 7-3 lead late in the first half.
"I think a couple of times they thought he was down, but he just made it with effort," Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said of Grimes. "He plays that way every snap of every game and every snap of every practice."
Laycock worried that a 90-yard touchdown drive – which culminated in R.J. Harris' acrobatic 15-yard touchdown reception from New Hampshire quarterback Kevin Decker (34 of 50 passing, 422 yards passing) with eight seconds left in the half – might deflate the Tribe.
But Grimes nice cut on the 50-yard screen and McBride's burst down the left sideline gave the Tribe offensive life. Hyde and the defense rode their early momentum into the second half, producing three turnovers in stopping four Wildcat drives deep into Tribe territory.
Hyde's sacks weren't the only part of his career day. He pressured Decker into two second-half interceptions by safety Ivan Tagoe at the Tribe 18, and by safety Jerome Couplin in the Tribe end zone.
Couplin's perfectly-timed pass breakup in the end zone halted a Wildcat drive early in the second half. Cornerback Terrell Wells' recovery of a fumble in the fourth quarter stopped the Wildcats at the W&M 24.
The Tribe set the tone in the first half, by holding the Wildcats scoreless three times inside the W&M 30, thanks to linebacker Jabrel Mines strip and fumble recovery, safety Jake O'Connor's pass breakup and on a sack by Hyde, who repeatedly beat Wildcat offensive tackle Walter McCarthy.
"They got some yards on us, but that's a heck of a defensive effort to hold them to 10 points," Laycock said.