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W&M defense excels in 17-0 win over New Hampshire

WILLIAMSBURG — If this keeps up, Jimmye Laycock and Kevin Rogers can reduce William and Mary's offensive playbook to a pamphlet and simply admire the defense's work.

One week after stuffing James Madison's offense in a homecoming win, the Tribe went one better and shut out No. 16 New Hampshire 17-0 on an unseasonably warm November Saturday at Zable Stadium.

"Never in my wildest (dreams) could have envisioned us shutting out a team like New Hampshire," Laycock said. "Not because we're not good enough, no, but because they're explosive with so many players and some of their scheme and all that. I thought it was just a tremendous, tremendous display of players doing what they're supposed to do and doing it at a very fast pace."

The Tribe (6-3, 3-2 CAA) fueled its postseason hopes with a dominant defensive performance and a resourceful offense that took advantage of New Hampshire turnovers.

New Hampshire (4-4, 3-2) was last shut out on Sept. 23, 1995, a span of 220 games, coincidentally, at William and Mary.

"I remember it well," Laycock said of the 39-0 win 18 years ago. "It was a little different. We kind of pretty well controlled them big-time back then."

Indeed. New Hampshire has advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs nine consecutive years, a streak very much in jeopardy. It's the program that nurtured Chip Kelly and his imaginative, formation-happy offense — much of which remains to this day.

But Wildcats coach Sean McDonnell could be forgiven if he petitions the CAA never to play in Williamsburg again. He's brought better teams to Zable and come away empty six consecutive times. UNH was ranked No. 1 in the country in 2005 and absorbed a 42-10 loss. He's 1-10 versus William and Mary and 107-60 versus everyone else in his head coaching career.

"This wasn't our team that played the last three weeks, and that was the disappointing thing," McDonnell said. "When you play a team like William and Mary, who is terrific on the defensive side of the football, and you have turnovers, penalties and sacks and can't get anything going, it hurts.

The Wildcats averaged 35.4 points and 460 yards per game, but managed just 312 yards Saturday. The Tribe held UNH's rushing game to 84 net yards, 145 below its average. The Wildcats converted just 3 of 15 chances on third down, and W&M defenders routinely blasted quarterbacks Sean Goldrich and Andy Vailas.

"I think we controlled the line of scrimmage," Tribe defensive tackle Tyler Claytor said. "That was the biggest thing coming in every week. Since Maine, we've wanted to get back to being physical. We thought we weren't being physical enough up front, especially in the middle.

"So the last couple weeks, we wanted to cut them at the line, don't let them get movement, keep them off Luke (Rhodes) and the linebackers and safeties, and just make them one-dimensional. If we can make a team one-dimensional and know what's coming, then there's nothing that they can do."

Conversely, William and Mary's reconfigured offense exhibited some balance. Quarterback Brent Caprio completed 14 of 24 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown, starting in place of Michael Graham, who suffered concussion-like symptoms last week after the JMU game.

Caprio connected on a handful of third-down conversions, including a 33-yard strike to Christian Reeves that led to a touchdown at the end of the first half and a 54-yard pass to Sean Ballard early in the third quarter that led to a TD and a 17-0 lead.

Jarrell Cooper (from Woodside High) rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown behind an offensive line that was missing both starting tackles, but cleared the way for 124 yards rushing and ample protection for Caprio.

The Tribe's defense, however, was the story. DeAndre Houston-Carson and Ryan Smith had interceptions and Mike Reilly recovered a Goldrich fumble after Jared Velasquez stripped him on a run that would have gone for a first down. New Hampshire had just one play longer than 20 yards.

"Make them earn every yard they get," Tribe safety Jerome Couplin said of the game plan. "Don't give them (any) cheap plays. Don't allow them to beat us deep because we're not paying attention or falling asleep because of play-action. As long as we kept them in front of us and make them earn everything, we'll be fine.

"They're a team that likes to live off big plays. If you watch film, they have a lot of big plays. Being able to hold them and keep the ball in front of us was the goal."

The Tribe has three games remaining — at Delaware, home to Towson and at Richmond. As well as the defense played Saturday, similar efforts are required for the team to meet its goals.

"I think this defense can be great," Claytor said. "Our biggest thing is forcing mistakes. Like today, we forced turnovers. They didn't give them. Good teams don't give the ball up, you have to take the ball away, and that's what we did today.

"Taking the ball away, getting negative plays like sacks, pass break-ups, tackles-for-loss, things of that nature. As long as we create negative plays and turnovers and we run to the ball, I think any defense, as long as we give the right amount of effort, we'll be fine. We'll just keep getting better and better as we go along in the season."

Fairbank can be reached by phone at 757-247-4637.

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