On the other side of the field at Richmond Stadium, Spiders coach Mike London – a former assistant coach to Laycock – had already accepted an apology from kicker Andrew Howard and predicted that Howard would get a chance to win the regular-season finale between rivals playing for the 119th time.
Sadly for the Tribe, both coaches were correct.
Howard’s 48-yard field goal on the last play of the game gave the fourth-ranked Spiders, defending national champions, a 13-10 victory over the Tribe on Nov. 21. The triumph assured Richmond of at least a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title, depending on the outcome of the game between Villanova and Delaware later Saturday.
The loss, the second year in a row Howard has beaten the Tribe with a late field goal, gave fifth-ranked W&M a 9-2 regular-season record. W&M will host 15th-ranked Weber State in the first round of the NCAA Playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 28, at 1 p.m. (Look here for a W&M news story on that game Nov. 23)
Tickets are available through the Tribe athletic department.
“This is all real disappointing right now,” Laycock said moments after the game, “but we’ve got more games to play, so we’ll get ready for that.”
It appeared that the Tribe would be the team attempting a game-winning field goal when they moved from their 33 to the Richmond 39 with under a minute to play. But on second down, quarterback R.J. Archer’s pass zipped by receiver Cameron Dohse, who was blocking on the play, and into the arms of Richmond’s Justin Rogers with just 14 seconds on the clock.
“We made a mistake at the end and give them credit, they took advantage,” Laycock said. “You hate to have it come down to a mistake like that, but you just knew that’s how it was going to be.”
Starting from their own 47, the Spiders (10-1, 7-1 CAA) moved to the Tribe 31 before taking a timeout with two seconds left.
Out trotted Howard, who had missed two field goals in the first half and sought out London to apologize at halftime.
“He told me, ‘I’m sorry, coach, my head wasn’t into it,’ " London said. “ ‘My head’s into it now, and I’ll win this game for you.’ And I told him, ‘You’re going to get the chance.’ ”
W&M’s seniors appeared on the verge of ridding themselves of three years of frustration against Richmond. After falling behind 10-3 three plays into the fourth quarter, they dominated the Spiders.
First, they bounded back into a tie with an 86-yard touchdown drive, 60 coming on Archer’s bullet to Dohse -- one of the few times a receiver for either team found himself open against two stifling defenses. Dohse caught the ball at the Richmond 38 then outran three defenders before crashing into the end zone with 12:09 to play.
“Cam made some big plays for us,” Laycock said. “Unfortunately, we were just a little inconsistent.”
Two series later, Tribe linemen Sean Lissemore and Adrian Tracy combined to sack quarterback Eric Ward on first down, followed by junior linebacker Wes Steinman’s spectacular diving interception at the Richmond 32.
A holding penalty set the Tribe back 10 yards, and kicker Brian Pate’s field goal attempt from 52 yards was on target, but barely short.
Again William and Mary’s defense held, with linebacker Jake Trantin sacking Ward to force a punt. The Tribe took over at the 33. Archer and Jonathan Grimes combined on two completions for 12 yards. Then Archer found Dohse with a 13-yard pass on third-and-7, down to the Richmond 39.
And that’s when the mistake Laycock dreaded occurred.
Individually, Dohse, a junior from Clifton, Va., was spectacular, catching five passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. In the first quarter, he grabbed a 49-yrd strike from Archer to set up Pate’s 20-yard field goal.
Archer completed 17-of-36 passes for 209 yards.
Defensively, the Tribe had eight tackles for losses and four sacks. Lissemore recorded 10 tackles, Trantin nine, to pace the Tribe, which held Richmond to just 18 rushing yards on 27 attempts.
Although the first half ended in a 3-3 tie, the Spiders had more chances to score. But Howard missed a 27-yard field goal midway through the second half and had a 40-yarder partially blocked 2:17 before the half.
“Our really defense rose to the occasion in the red zone in the first half,” Laycock said. “They played hard the whole way.”