CARBONDALE, Ill.—As his teammates jogged to the locker room, Jonathan Grimes lined up one last celebratory chest-bump with safety David Caldwell at the 20-yard line.
After a running start, Grimes, William and Mary's sophomore tailback, got pretty good air on the victory leap. It was a feat made all the more impressive given that, for an entire quarter, the Tribe's offense couldn't get off the ground.
"I felt like we just had to get in a rhythm," said Grimes, who rushed for 133 yards — 6 shy of the Tribe playoff record he set in last weekend's 38-0 romp against Weber State. "The O-line, they were fired up all game, and I just felt like it was a matter of time till we started moving the chains."
The win marked the 200th of William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock's career and moved the Tribe into a national semifinal Friday night at 8 at Villanova.
William and Mary (11-2) also tied a single-season record for wins.
Southern Illinois (11-2), which had won 11 straight games to finish the year ranked No. 1 in the country by The Sports Network, outgained the Tribe 102-2 in the first quarter, when William and Mary's only first down came on a roughing-the-kicker penalty. The Salukis also piled up 73 first-quarter rushing yards, 20 more than the Tribe's top-ranked rushing defense was allowing opponents per game. A scramble by quarterback Paul McIntosh netted 34 of those yards on the game's first play.
Things turned around in dramatic fashion after Southern Illinois, which went up 3-0 on Kyle Dougherty's 46-yard field goal on the game's opening possession, missed another first-quarter field-goal try.
First, senior wide receiver D.J. McAulay made three of his five catches for 31 yards as the Tribe went 62 yards in 10 plays to tie the game at 3 on Brian Pate's 36-yard field goal with 6:06 to play in the second quarter. Then, facing fourth-and-5 from the Salukis' 45-yard line, the Tribe converted a fake punt, as David Miller rambled 12 yards for a first down.
On the next play, R.J. Archer, who was 15-of-28 for 192 yards but didn't complete a pass until the first play of the field-goal drive, hit Rob Varno for a 24-yard gain. Two plays later, Grimes strolled 6 yards off right tackle to put the Tribe up 10-3 with 1:37 left before halftime.
"Jon is just an outstanding back," Laycock said. "We've been riding him all season. We've got Courtland (Marriner) and we've got Terrence (Riggins) and we've got other guys in there, but he's an outstanding running back, and he just runs every play as hard as he can, like he does in practice."
The Tribe finished the first half with a 190-99 edge in yardage, then opened the third quarter with a 16-play, 80-yard drive that chewed 8:19 off the clock and ended in Grimes' 7-yard run.
"The second half, that's where you've really got to give them credit," Southern Illinois coach Dale Lennon said. "They made the drives they needed to, controlled the tempo of the game, and any time that we thought we had something going, they were quick to slam the door on us."
The Salukis managed just 11 rushing yards after the first quarter and six second-half first downs. The Tribe, which came into the game ranked second in the country in scoring defense (12.7 points per game) and total defense (230 yards) finished with a 373-187 yardage edge and 22 first downs to Southern Illinois' 11.
"We started off a little slow, (but) we don't really worry about it," Archer said. "It's definitely nice to have a defense like that. ... They have our back every game. That's what (defensive coordinator Bob) Shoop says to me before every game. He says, 'We got your back today.' They always do."
Saluki senior tailback Desi Karim, who came into the game second in the nation with 138.8 rushing yards per game, was held to 27 yards on 12 carries, with just 13 of those yards coming in the second half.
"They're just tough," Karim said. "That's basically it. They were just tough. Tougher than us, more physical than us."
WILLIAM AND MARY 24, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 3
|William and Mary 01077—24|
|Southern Illinois 3000—3|
|Time of possession||36:50||23:10|