"You ain't gonna play any worse," William and Mary's coach told his senior quarterback.
As Laycock anticipated, Phillips and the entire team rallied. But it was not enough.
Richmond 23, William and Mary 20. In overtime.
Agonizing regular-season finale. Anxious hours today.
The defeat leaves the 16th-ranked Tribe (7-4 overall, 5-3 Colonial Athletic Association) among the handful of teams contending for the final spot or two in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
The 16-team bracket will be unveiled tonight at 7 on ESPNU.
"I'll be watching, definitely," Phillips said.
"I've still got a little bit of faith. I hope we've got enough credentials on our side. … I think we deserve to be in the playoffs."
The notion of W&M in the playoffs was Stephen Colbert-absurd at halftime.
Richmond, a playoff lock after Saturday's victory, led 20-0 and had outgained the Tribe 196-12.
W&M had one first down and minus-3 rushing yards in the opening half. Most distressing to the home team, Phillips had committed five turnovers — four interceptions and a lost fumble — that the Spiders (9-3, 6-2) converted into 17 points.
He was wild high and wild low. He threw into double coverage and across his body.
In short, he violated darn near every quarterback tenet in the book. This for a head coach who forged his considerable reputation mentoring quarterbacks.
With a capable backup, R.J. Archer, available, I expected Laycock to yank Phillips like a manager would a pitcher during a 10-run first inning. Laycock never considered it.
"No," Laycock said. "Lord, no."
Too many times Laycock had seen Phillips shrug off adversity. Too many times he had witnessed this team overcome halftime deficits.
Remember, the Tribe trailed 21-7 at No. 4 New Hampshire before winning 38-24. It was 35-7 against No. 14 Villanova, a game W&M lost 38-28.