WILLIAMSBURG – In a football game William and Mary trailed 14-0 and ultimately won 52-49 – one that featured 1,020 combined yards of offense – it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the turning point came for the Tribe. Or if there was one, exactly.
After giving up 28 unanswered points in 17 minutes and six seconds of first-half action Saturday, Football Championship Subdivision playoffs newcomer Duquesne (8-4) didn’t go quietly. The 13th-ranked Tribe’s second-round postseason date next week at Richmond wasn’t secure until the final minute when junior tailback Kendell Anderson ran three consecutive times for a first down to ice the three-point win after DeAndre Houston-Carson recovered the Dukes’ ensuing onside kick attempt.
Each team punted only once, Duquesne made two of its three field goal attempts and William and Mary kicker Nick Dorka converted his only attempt, a 20-yarder.
The lone Dukes miss, a 24-yard attempt blocked by Tribe senior defensive tackle Tyler Claytor, was as impactful as any other sequence in the game. Houston-Carson picked up the tumbling pigskin and ran it back 65 yards for a score down the sideline to extend William and Mary’s lead to 38-24 after Dorka’s extra point.
After his block, the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Claytor pursued the ball cautiously like he might try to corral it and run it himself – He certainly made no attempt to fall on it.
“I thought about (running) it for a second,” Claytor said, “and I saw it take that second long bounce. I just started looking for DeAndre. As soon as I saw DeAndre, I turned back around and looked for somebody to block. The nearest guy was about 10 yards away. I knew DeAndre was going to scoop it and score it.”
He did, much to the delight of the Zable Stadium faithful that had seen this act before.
It was the second time Claytor and Houston-Carson combined for a scoop-and-score this season. The first came on an extra-point attempt in a 44-41 win at home over James Madison.
Claytor collected his fourth total block of the season and second blocked field goal after swatting one in the season opener at Lafayette College.
The senior safety Houston-Carson, who also has a pick-six to his credit this season, happens to own the only other two blocks by a Tribe player this season.
William and Mary (9-3) entered Saturday ranked 12th nationally in blocks. Including last season, the Tribe has now blocked 16 kicks in 25 games.
“It’s just our scheme,” Claytor said. “It’s something that we trust. One of the things we talk about is, ‘Don’t take plays off and fourth down is our down. We give max effort whether it’s fourth down or a PAT, field goal or punt. Whenever we’re out there, we want to give a hundred percent.”
It’s not as if Duquesne wasn't prepared for it.
“We knew what he had done through the season and worked really hard at it,” Dukes coach Jerry Schmitt said. “He just got skinny that time and got in the backfield. He does a really good job at it. Give him credit.”
Claytor didn't line up in the same spot he usually does, in front of the opponent’s long snapper.
William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said Claytor deserves credit for not getting caught up in the emotion of blocking the kick.
“He knew DeAndre had been coming off the corner on the block and he’d be somewhere around there,” Laycock said. “He was smart to look for him and then see him. That’s a really heads-up play.”
Duquesne scored on its next possession, but the Northeast Conference champion was held to a field goal on its best chance to pull even in the second half with 7:01 to play. That made the score 45-41 in favor of the Tribe, which held on to win its first playoff game since 2009.
Come postseason time, every block and bounce counts.