The Collegian
Thursday, September 21, 2023

Spider football falls to William & Mary in season-ending overtime loss

<p>First-year running back Savon Smith evades William and Mary defense during the Capital Cup game on Saturday, November 23, 2019.&nbsp;</p>

First-year running back Savon Smith evades William and Mary defense during the Capital Cup game on Saturday, November 23, 2019. 

In the 130th meeting of the Capital Cup, the College of William and Mary Tribe mounted a fourth-quarter comeback and defeated the University of Richmond Spiders 21-15 in overtime in Richmond's final game of the season. 

William and Mary was buoyed by a boisterous Tribe crowd chanting, “Let’s go Tribe.” 

Richmond entered the game having won seven of the last eight meetings against the Tribe. The two teams have been remarkably even over their history, with the series now standing at 63-62-5, in favor of William and Mary. 

Richmond head coach Russ Huesman said, “You can’t turn the ball over five times against a good football team and expect to win. I thought for the most part defensively we did pretty good, but… we haven’t been playing really well in the second half; I’ll address that. Very disappointing, disappointing for our seniors. We got great kids on our team. A lot of class on our football team. [I’m] proud of them.” 

The first quarter was characterized by quick, short drives and punctuated by turnovers. Neither team reached the red zone; in fact, both the Spiders and Tribe rarely crossed midfield. 

The Tribe forced a fumble and an interception on the Spiders’ first two drives, but the Spider defense responded, forcing the Tribe to punt on its first four possessions. 

To end the first quarter, on a punt return, Richmond wide receiver Charlie Fessler lost the ball at the Spiders’ 25-yard line. The Tribe recovered the ball and earned its best scoring chance of the game. 

At the beginning of the second quarter, the Spiders had a chance to stop the Tribe on third down, but Tribe quarterback Hollis Mathis spun out of a tackle and completed an 11-yard pass to Tyler Klaus for a first down. 

Bronson Yoder ran the ball into the end zone, tallying a touchdown for the Tribe. Defensive lineman Bill Murray, on a pass from quarterback Ted Hefter, completed the two-point conversion to give the Tribe an 8-0 lead. 

The Spiders countered with their own drive up the field to the 19-yard line, highlighted by a pass to Fessler. Several strong Tribe defensive plays, including a quarterback hurry and a forced incomplete pass, resulted in a 39-yard field goal attempt. 

First-year kicker Jake Larson converted, giving the Spiders their first points of the game and cutting the Tribe lead to 8-3. 

William and Mary quickly drove down the field, as the Spider defense failed to stop the Tribe on two consecutive third-down opportunities. With the Tribe within the Spiders 30-yard line, another failed stop, on fourth down, set up a field goal attempt. However, the Tribe faked the field goal and attempted a pass play. The pass resulted in no gain, turning the ball over to the Spiders.

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In response, the Spiders advanced quickly up the field, behind a 14-yard run by quarterback Joe Mancuso. Soon after, a pass to running back Savon Smith led to a 36-yard gain, as Smith broke several tackles as he wove through defensive players up the sideline. 

The Spider fans in attendance rose to their feet as the Spiders earned their first touchdown opportunity of the game. And they did not let the fans down this time, as a 17-yard pass to Fessler gave the Spiders a 10-8 lead with four seconds to play in the half. 

Richmond led in many categories at the half, including 174-43 passing yard and 13-7 first downs. However, the Spiders’ three turnovers -- to the Tribe’s none -- seemed to make the difference.

To begin the second half, a 33-yard return from safety Cal Kee set up a William and Mary drive from the Spiders’ 37-yard line. However, the Spider defense forced its first turnover, with senior safety Trent Williams intercepting a pass at the Spider 13-yard line. But the Spiders could never gain steam, and the Tribe defense forced a punt. 

After a missed 49-yard field goal by the Tribe, the Spiders took over with 6:22 remaining in the quarter. Though a sack set up a 2nd-and-18, the Spiders completed two beautiful plays, including a tackle-breaking, running-and-throwing play by Mancuso. 

The tide quickly turned, as the Spiders committed their fourth turnover, as the Tribe’s Isaiah Laster intercepted the ball at the Tribe 14. However, the Richmond defense was as good as ever. The Spiders struck the next blow, with a crushing tackle by Richmond's Brandon Feamster setting up fourth down. An acrobatic blocked punt by defensive back Trent Williams gave Richmond a safety and a 12-8 lead. 

On the Spiders following possession, a questionable pass interference call ignited the vocal William and Mary crowd, leading to anti-referee chants. The William and Mary defense prevented a touchdown, but Larson converted a long, 45-yard field goal to begin the fourth quarter. 

With the Spiders leading 15-8 and after a back-and-forth seven minutes, the Tribe drove down the field to the Richmond 11-yard line, where they were stopped by a forced fumble by Tristan Wheeler. However, a chaotic play by the Richmond offense led to a Spider fumble that was recovered by WM's Darius Fullwood, who muscled his way into the end zone for a Tribe touchdown to tie the game at 15 with 7:32 remaining. 

Richmond’s best touchdown chance came on a Hail Mary with less than six minutes remaining, but the pass fell incomplete. A tackle by the Tribe’s Ryan Poole and Tyler Crist set up a long William and Mary drive with four minutes to go. The Richmond defense could not muster a stop, and the visitors drove the ball over midfield. However, several incomplete passes and a sack by Richmond's Daniel Jones forced a punt as time expired. The Spiders took a knee and the game headed to overtime.   

Rain began to fall as the spectators braved the harsh weather. The Spiders possessed the ball first, but the Tribe maintained its momentum, forcing a field goal. William and Mary’s Bill Murray blocked the kick, and the Tribe took over at the 40-yard line. The Tribe inched to the UR 23, setting up a 23-yard pass to Zach Burdick for the touchdown. 

Coach Huesman believed that the team improved from the year before, saying “I think we made steps [from last year.] We played good in the middle of the year; we were a solid football team. These last few weeks were a little disappointing, but congratulations; William and Mary got it. Next year, we’ll see what happens.” 

With the 21-15 victory, the Tribe moved to 5-7 overall and 3-5 in conference play, and the Spiders dropped to 5-7 overall and 4-4 in conference play. 

Contact sportswriter Cassie Coughlan at

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