The Collegian
Sunday, June 16, 2024

Spiders reclaim Capital Cup in season finale thriller against William & Mary

<p>RIchmond Spiders Football team after win against William and Mary in Capital Cup. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics.</p>

RIchmond Spiders Football team after win against William and Mary in Capital Cup. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics.

Another chapter has been written in the storied history of the Capital Cup, and this year it took until the very last play of the game to see whether the University of Richmond or the College of William & Mary would be hoisting the trophy Nov. 18. 

With three seconds to go in the fourth quarter, William & Mary gave it one last shot in the red zone, attempting to tie things up with the Spiders. 

The ball went incomplete and out of the endzone, signaling the end of the game. However, the Spiders were called for pass interference, giving the Tribe a final play with time on the clock expired. 

The Tribe completed a touchdown pass, making the score 27-26 in favor of the Spiders. William & Mary then elected to go for the two-point conversion instead of tying things up with an extra point to send the game into overtime. 

On that two-point conversion attempt, the Tribe was called for holding, and with that, the game was over. That elusive Capital Cup trophy and piece of the Colonial Athletic Association Championship were finally in the hands of the Spiders after falling short of both last season.

“It’s a great feeling,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Ryan Coll said after the game. “We worked really hard for this. It was disappointing last year. We felt like we got disrespected a little bit on our own field and that’s never a good feeling. So, to come back out here and take it back, there’s nothing like it.”

The Spiders looked like they were off to a strong start offensively in the first quarter, as on the first play of the game, redshirt sophomore quarterback Kyle Wickersham rushed for 11 yards and a first down. But, Wickersham’s chunk of yardage would be all for not as UR ended up punting four plays later, which gave William & Mary the chance to get on the board first, 7-0. 

Despite going down a touchdown early, UR bounced right back and evened things up just over two minutes later. The touchdown showed some of the Spiders’ trickery when it came to offensive scheme throughout the game. Wickersham handed the ball off to redshirt senior running back Savon Smith, who then threw it to redshirt junior tight end Brooks Heagarty in the endzone. 

William & Mary took the lead once more, 10-7, after a field goal in the beginning of the second quarter, but the Spiders would answer with a touchdown, marking the final time UR trailed in the game. For the rest of the contest, the Spiders were in front on the scoreboard.

The Spiders’ second touchdown of the day came from Wickersham, who rushed 10 yards into the endzone. This play was reminiscent of what Wickersham did all throughout the game, as he rushed 17 times for 72 yards on the day. 

UR kept William & Mary scoreless for the rest of the second quarter, as well as for the entirety of the third quarter. The Spiders scored a field goal with 59 seconds to go in the first half and then connected on another in the third quarter with 2:11 to go in the period. Both field goals were made by redshirt junior kicker Andrew Lopez. 

However, just when the Spiders had given themselves a 10-point cushion, the Tribe was able to cut it to three. The score was 20-17, and William & Mary was inching closer to squelching the Spiders’ hopes of a CAA Championship and Capital Cup Trophy. 

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But, the Spiders ultimately had some additional trickery up their sleeves. After the Tribe cut it to 20-17, on UR’s next drive, the Spiders marched down the field and capped things off with a touchdown pass from redshirt junior wide receiver Jasiah Williams to redshirt junior tight end Connor Deveney to make it a 10-point game once again, 27-17.

From there, William & Mary would score twice more. Ultimately though, it was the failed two-point conversion attempt on the last play of the game that handed the Spiders the victory and the advantage in the all time Capital Cup series, 65-64-5. 

Five weeks into the season, the Spiders found themselves with a 2-3 record and it looked as if things would spiral into a mediocre year compared to last year when UR made its first trip to the FCS Playoffs since 2016. But, the Spiders finished the season with six-straight wins — the sixth coming against the Tribe. 

UR Head Coach Russ Huesman said his team doesn’t quit. 

“I mean, they came to work every day,” Huesman said. “Even when we were 2-3, came to work. They believed that they could do this. We were taking it one day at a time. We were in a playoff mentality the whole time and somehow we just kept notching [wins] up. I mean, sometimes I don’t know how it happened and then all of a sudden now we’re playing for a championship. Unbelievable.”

The win over the Tribe gives the Spiders an 8-3 record to finish the regular season. What's next for this team is undetermined at this point, as UR does not know if or where they will fall in the playoff bracket. 

But, the football team will find out where they stand soon enough as the FCS playoff selection show will take place at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 19. 

Huesman said he thinks the Spiders will get a playoff bid.

“I mean, I can’t imagine us not getting in to be honest with you,” Huesman said. “But, stranger things have happened. It’s up to a committee of people, but we got a CAA Championship and a Capital Cup coming home with us and those are two of the most important things right there.”

Contact sports editor Jimmy James at jimmy.james@richmond.edu.

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