The last time William and Mary's football team was 9-1, Ruth Laycock was pregnant with her oldest son.

Jimmye Laycock has spent more than half of his 61 years playing for and coaching the Tribe, and Saturday he guided his alma mater to a landmark victory.

"There's not many things around here older than I am," Laycock beamed after a 20-17 victory over New Hampshire on senior day. "Amazing."

He was referring to the last time William and Mary was 9-1. It was late 1947, and the Tribe won the Southern Conference championship with a 35-0 rout of Richmond before falling to Arkansas in the Dixie Bowl to finish 9-2.

A couple months later, in February of '48, Jimmye arrived.

Saturday, his 2009 team arrived. Saturday, William and Mary proved itself capable of matching, or exceeding, the 2004 squad that advanced to the national playoff semifinals.

Sure, the Tribe began the afternoon with considerable cred, including an upset of Virginia and a No. 5 ranking in the championship subdivision. Still, something was missing.

William and Mary had not defeated an opponent certain to make the playoffs. It had not played a deep-into-the-fourth-quarter contest that tests mettle, endurance and poise. Why, none of the Tribe's previous games this season was decided by fewer than 12 points.

The Tribe's four post-Villanova victories? None of the quartet — Northeastern, JMU, Rhode Island and Towson — has a winning record, and their combined mark is 10-30.

Saturday was different.

New Hampshire arrived at No. 8 in the polls, the lone conqueror of Villanova, which in turn is the only team to defeat William and Mary. The Wildcats were the Colonial Athletic Association's highest-scoring team, and they had rushed for 543 yards in their last two outings.

Tailback Chad Kackert, all 5-foot-8 of him, was the ringleader, running for 342 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries, which figures to an outrageous 10.7 years per attempt. But that was against CAA lightweights Rhode Island and Northeastern.

William and Mary ranks second nationally in rushing defense at 62.8 yards per game. The most yards the Tribe has allowed an individual this season were 76 by James Madison quarterback Justin Thorpe.

"It doesn't really matter how fast you are when there's a wall in front of you," Tribe defensive tackle Sean Lissemore said.

He's not braggin'. He's preachin' the truth.

Kackert managed a meager 20 yards Saturday, the Wildcats 27 on the ground total. None of his 11 carries gained more than 7 yards.

Lissemore, Adrian Tracy, Mike Stover and C.J. Herbert shed blockers. Linebacker Wes Steinman delivered the day's most punishing tackle on an option pitch to Sean Jellison that lost 6 yards. Lissemore and B.W. Webb intercepted passes.

Most telling, William and Mary yielded only three points on the three New Hampshire possessions that began in Tribe territory.

"I guess we're pretty good up front," Tracy said with a wry smile.