VILLANOVA, Pa. ——It’s the smallest of measurements in football, but the reality is the difference for William and Mary and Villanova was one yard. The Tribe’s ability to gain one yard in short-yardage situations and its ability to stop the Wildcats in similar situations made the difference in W&M’s 20-16 win Saturday.
“I was really impressed with that on both sides of the ball,” William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. “There are a lot of good teams in the CAA, and again, every week you better be ready to play. All I’m worried about is us continuing to get better.
The win ended a five-game losing streak at Villanova (1-4, 0-2 CAA) for William and Mary (3-2, 1-1), which travels to Delaware next Saturday before returning home to play New Hampshire on Oct. 15.
Jonathan Grimes, who grew up just 30 miles away in southern New Jersey and had a large fan base at the game, rushed for 137 yards on 31 carries, including a pair of touchdowns.
Grimes wasn’t flashy, but the Tribe showed the same workhorse mentality on both sides of the ball that Grimes showed throughout the day. W&M outrushed Villanova 173 yards to 68 and converted 9-of-13 third downs and 4-of-5 fourth-down plays for first downs.
“I’m never expecting any sort of number of carries,” Grimes said. “We just need to do what we can do. We’re just working together as a team and playing our game.”
Down 16-14 with 11:54 left in the third quarter, the Tribe took nine plays to go 53 yards for the first of two Drake Kuhn field goals to take a 17-16 lead with 8:36 left in the quarter. After a four-and out, the Tribe went on its most impressive drive of the afternoon without Grimes in the backfield.
“It was just (Keith McBride’s) turn,” Laycock said. “He needs his carries too. The child-labor laws may kick in if we run him too much. But Keith’s a good kid and a good back. He needs his carries too. Nothing more than that.”
On a drive that commenced on the Tribe’s 22-yard line, McBride carried the ball nine times for 30 yards. The drive carried over into the fourth quarter, when Kuhn hit a 23-yard field goal for a 20-16 lead.
Twice on the drive, Laycock chose to go for it on fourth-and-short. Both times, William and Mary made it with ease, the second a 30-yard completion from Michael Graham to Alex Gottlieb that exploited a Villanova defense packed at the line.
“I wanted to go for it again on that last play, but the situation dictated we kick the field goal,” Laycock said.
Villanova, which had won seven of the previous nine meetings against William and Mary, struggled to convert 4-of-13 third-down attempts.
The Wildcats put up one final drive by using a variety of short passes, but on fourth-and-2 at the Tribe’s 24, defensive back B.W. Webb of Newport News stepped up with a key interception and the game was well within the Tribe’s hands.