Towson and its risk-taking, unorthodox offensive approach repeatedly gashed the Tribe's usually stout defense and extended the Tigers' remarkable start with a 38-27 win Saturday in front of a homecoming sellout at Zable Stadium.
"I guess Towson had a lot to do with it," Laycock said, "but we didn't get off blocks real well, we didn't tackle real well, we didn't cover real well. … I was disappointed. I expected us to play much better than that, defensively. I really did. But we didn't, for one reason or another."
Towson defeated the Tribe (4-4, 2-3 CAA) for the first time in eight tries, scoring more points than W&M has allowed an FCS opponent since the end of the 2008 season (48 versus James Madison). The Tigers totaled 427 yards, 90 more than W&M was giving up heading into Saturday's game.
"We knew exactly what we were getting into," safety Brian Thompson said. "We knew they were going to run the power (rushing game). We practiced well this week. We were ready for anything that they ran. It just didn't turn out the way we wanted it to."
Particularly disheartening was that the Tribe squandered its most consistently productive offensive performance of the season. Career rushing leader Jon Grimes (133 yards rushing, 315 all-purpose yards) had another large day, and quarterback Michael Graham, who missed the previous two games with an illness, was 19-for-26 for 227 yards and two touchdowns, with a pair of interceptions.
"Whenever we were stopped on offense, I felt like we were stopping ourselves," Grimes said. "I just think it was a day for the offense to hold down the defense. They've always got our backs, and today was a day for us to have their backs. We just had to capitalize on every opportunity and try to stay on the field for them and give them some life, some more enthusiasm. When they make a big stop, the offense feels really good. I wish we could have pumped up the defense a little more."
The best that William and Mary can finish is 7-4, with a week off before its final three-game push. But since one of its wins was against Division II New Haven, it would have just six FCS wins, which is usually a cutoff for the NCAA playoff selection committee.
Meanwhile, Towson (6-1, 4-0 CAA) remained tied for first place and moved a step closer to its first playoff berth. The Tigers scored touchdowns on their first four possessions on the way to a 28-17 halftime lead, as the Tribe defense seemed to be out of position or unable to make a play.
"I expected us to have some degree of success versus their defense," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "We do a lot of stuff, but we don't do a lot of stuff. We make it look like we do a lot of stuff. We look like we're hard to defend. Our smoke-and-mirror machine was working quite well in the first half.
"I think that they have really good players, really fast players. We give a whole lot of formations when we change tempos, to make those really fast football players think instead of run. And that gives us a little bit of an advantage."
Freshman Terrance West rushed for 141 of the Tigers' 224 yards on the ground, and quarterback Grant Enders was a solid 15-for-21 for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Ambrose went for it on fourth down three times, converting all three. The first was in his own territory on the Tigers' first touchdown drive. The second was a fake punt on 4th-and-7 near midfield in the third quarter, on what would be their last touchdown drive. The last time was a 4th-and-1 at the Tribe 3-yard line, ahead 35-27 late in the game.
The Tigers chewed up another minute off the clock and still kicked a chip-shot field goal for the game's final points.
"For us to be successful, we have to be a little unorthodox at times," Ambrose said. "I told my kids, I'll do anything to help them succeed, and if that's what's going to give us an opportunity to win ball games, that's what we're going to do."
The Tribe camp knew that its offense, especially the passing game, was a work-in-progress. But now the defense, so effective most of the season, is in need of some repair, as well to prevent a repeat of Saturday.
"We know, going into this year and the way we've been playing, we're not really interested getting into shootouts with this year's team," Laycock said. "That's not the way I like to go. I've been there, done that sometimes, but not here."