There's no place like home for William and Mary, which hasn't lost at Zable Stadium in 11 games, and thanks to the Tribe's No. 2 national seed in the FCS playoffs, the wins could keep on coming right up until the national championship game in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 7.
The No. 2 seed guarantees William and Mary (8-3, 6-2 CAA), which drubbed Richmond 41-3 this past Saturday and closed the regular season ranked No. 4 in both The Sports Network and the FCS coaches' poll, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the national semifinals, should the Tribe advance that far.
"It's one of the things I think all college football teams want to do — they want to for sure establish success at home," Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said. "That's something we really have done."
That success hasn't gone unnoticed.
The Richmond game was the Tribe's third sellout of the season and the third to draw more than 3,000 of the school's 5,800 students.
"The students make everything better, and then on top of that, the rest of the fans that come, they're all awesome," fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Callahan said. "… The defense loves it. They're louder whenever it's third and long. … We're very excited for these playoffs, and we're very excited to get them all at home."
William and Mary has averaged 11,290 fans, or 92 percent capacity, at 12,259-seat Zable — the most since 1997 renovations to the 75-year-old stadium.
"(It's) just phenomenal, to have that kind of support," Laycock said. "Our players recognize that, and I really think it helps our players rise to a different level."
William and Mary played at a level not seen in six seasons against the Spiders, amassing its gaudiest offensive total (616 yards) since 2004. That was also the last year the Tribe beat Richmond, which came into Saturday's game ranked No. 18 with playoff aspirations of its own and a defense giving up just 18.5 points per game.
"To play like that, I think that probably got people's attention," Laycock said. " … People probably thought that if we were going to win that game, it was probably going to be a decent struggle and a close game, and as it turned out, we really played well."
The lopsided victory also avenged the Tribe's last home loss — a 23-20 overtime heartbreaker against Richmond on Nov. 22, 2008. That defeat kept the Tribe out of the playoffs, while Richmond went on the win the FCS title.
William and Mary next plays at 1:30 p.m., Dec. 4 against the winner of this Saturday's Georgia Southern (7-4) at South Carolina State (9-2) game. If the Tribe keeps winning, it will have two more rounds of games at Zable, on either Dec. 10 or 11 and Dec. 17 or 18.
William and Mary is one of four Colonial Athletic Association teams to make the playoffs, marking the second straight season the league has had four postseason representatives. The other three — third seed Delaware (9-2), Villanova (7-4) and New Hampshire (7-4) — also earned first-round byes.
The Tribe, with backup quarterback Michael Paulus (shoulder) among several players nursing injuries, can use the time off.
"I hope it helps us a lot," Laycock said. "I don't know if we'll get players back that we're missing or not, but certainly the coaches and the players probably like backing off a little bit. The players get their legs back and maybe the coaches get a little bit more re-energized. Everybody talks about the players needing a break. Sometimes the coaches need a break worse, with the hours we put in. They probably need to sit back and take a deep breath."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun