The William & Mary football team overcame an early 14-point deficit in Saturday's first-round NCAA FCS playoffs and defeated Duquesne, 52-49, at Zable Stadium. In improving its home record to 6-0 this season, W&M posted its highest point total since scoring 52 in a win against Virginia Military Institute in 2008.
The victory, W&M's ninth in 12 games this season and seventh in its last eight games, sets up a rematch with No. 7 Richmond on Dec. 5 at Robins Stadium. Kickoff for the second-round playoff game will be noon.
The Spiders defeated the 13th-ranked Tribe, 20-9, at Robins Stadium on Nov. 21 in the 125th meeting of the rivalry, giving the Spiders a bye to the second round of the FCS playoffs. It will be the first time in the history of the rivalry that these two programs will meet in the postseason.
Richmond posted an 8-3 record this season and a 6-2 mark in the CAA en route to a championship and automatic berth into the FCS playoffs. Richmond has been led, especially in the second half of the season, by national offensive player of the year candidate Jacobi Green, a running back who has amassed a career-best and CAA-leading 1,285 yards on the ground to go with 15 touchdowns which also led the league.
Duquesne, the Northeast Conference champion, scored a touchdown on its first play from a scrimmage – a 71-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Dillon Buechel, who threw for 423 yards and a career-best six touchdowns – and added another score to go up by 14 points less than six minutes into the game.
The Tribe responded with 28 unanswered points, never relinquished the lead, and at times seemed to have the victory well in hand. But the two teams fought back and forth and the game wasn't finally decided until W&M fell on an onsides kick with 1:11 to play. At that point, the Tribe was able to run out the clock.
Tribe quarterback Steve Cluley didn't have the gaudy statistics as his Duquesne counterpart, but he did throw three touchdown passes – all to DeVonte Dedmon – and accumulated 251 yards on just 15 attempts. By contrast, Buechel passed 53 times.
Kendell Anderson added two rushing touchdowns and 137 yards on 24 rushing attempts, the main cog in a Tribe gound attack that amassed 230 yards.
One of the game's many critical plays came with W&M ahead, 31-24. The Tribe'sblocked a 24-yard field goal, which DeAndre Houston-Carson scooped up and raced 65 uyards for a touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Duquesne recovered a fumble butthrew an interception on the next play. Two plays later, William & Mary fumbled again and made a 35-yard field goal to cut Duquesne's deficit to 45-41. But Anderson's eight-yard touchdown run increased William & Mary's lead to 52-41.
Again, the Dukes responded. Wayne Capers Jr. made a fingertip catch in the end zone for a 42-yard score and Duquesne converted the 2-point conversion with 1:11 left to pull within 52-49. But William & Mary recovered the onside kick.