RICHMOND—All day long, William and Mary called on its defense, and all day long, the fourth-best unit in the nation answered.
Except the last time.
"(The defense) played outstanding, as we have played defensively all year," William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "I was disappointed offensively. I wish we could have run the ball better, sustained some blocks and done better, and also we had several drops out there, which we don't normally have. When you're playing a good team like that, you've got to catch the football, you've got to sustain blocks. ... You can't be coming up with second-and-10s a whole lot or third-and-8s against good teams. You just can't."
The Tribe (9-2, 6-2 CAA), which could have won at least a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title and all but granted itself a first-round home playoff game with a win, faced third-and-20, thanks to a holding penalty, when Brian Pate's 52-yard field-goal try into the wind came up half a yard short. And it was second-and-10 when quarterback R.J. Archer, who threw for 209 yards and a touchdown, started to scramble, then tried to complete a pass to receiver Cameron Dohse, who'd turned his back to block on what he thought was Archer's run.
The Spiders (10-1, 7-1) took over with 14 seconds to play. Eric Ward completed passes of 18 and 4 yards before Howard, who'd missed two field-goal attempts earlier, including a 28-yarder, sent his final attempt right between the uprights.
"I was down on the grass right there," Richmond coach Mike London said. "I didn't see what happened (on the kick), but it was just great to get up and see our players rush the field and rush Andrew."
Not much rushing went on elsewhere, as the teams combined for 87 yards on the ground. The longest run of the game came on Archer's 14-yard scramble after a flea flicker-gone-badly with CAA-leading rusher Jonathan Grimes, averaging 92 yards per game but held to 41 yards on 13 carries against Richmond.
The Spiders had 239 yards of offense to 274 for the Tribe, which came into Saturday giving up just 236.3 yards per game.
"I knew it was going to be tough," said Laycock, whose team leads the nation in rushing defense (59.2 yards per game) but faced a Spiders squad giving up just 70.7, ranked third in the country. "They're really good up front. I was concerned about that. I thought in the second half we got a little bit better and we popped a few here and there, but we never could get anything really going."
Richmond broke a 3-all halftime tie with a seven-play drive, capped by Justin Forte's 4-yard TD run, that started at the Tribe's 30 after William and Mary couldn't move the ball from its 13. But the Tribe answered with a six-play, 85-yard march that featured a 9-yard completion to tight end Rob Varno on third-and-8 before Dohse's 60-yard TD catch.
The score still was tied at 10 when Wes Steinman intercepted Ward, who threw for 221 yards but was sacked a season-high five times. The Tribe couldn't cash in, though, bogging down at the Richmond 32 before the holding call prompted Pate's 52-yard attempt, which almost grazed the crossbar.
William and Mary got another chance after forcing a three-and-out and taking over at its 33 with 2:10 to play. Archer went 3-for-3, including a 13-yard completion to Dohse on third-and-7, before an incompletion brought up the fateful second-and-10 from the Spiders' 39.
"It was a close, hard-fought game that came right down to the end," Laycock said. "It was two good teams, and I think you would say two evenly matched teams."
Unlike last year, when a 23-20 overtime loss to Richmond ended the Tribe's season, William and Mary took some consolation from knowing it has booked a spot in the FCS playoff field that will be announced today.
"This game is pretty much over," said senior defensive end Adrian Tracy, who had seven tackles, including 1 1/2 of William and Mary's eight tackles for losses, and moved within one sack of the Tribe's single-season record of 12. "We're going to go watch film and try to correct our mistakes. None of us is really taking it that well, but there's nothing we can do but move on to the next game."
RICHMOND 13, WILLIAM AND MARY 10
|William and Mary 3007—10|
|Time of poss||27:37||32:23|