Courtesy of William & Mary Athletics
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - After jumping out to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter, the seventh-ranked William and Mary football team held off top-ranked Villanova's second half comeback bid to earn a 31-24 victory in front of a sold-out Zable Stadium crowd on Saturday afternoon.
The victory was W&M's (4-1, 2-1) third win against the nation's top-ranked team since 2005 (New Hampshire in 2005 and Southern Illinois in 2009). The triumph also extended the Tribe's home game winning streak to eight games.
Walter Payton Award Watch List honoree Jonathan Grimes recorded his second three-touchdown performance of the season while totaling a game-high 83 rushing yards. With the performance, the Palmyra, N.J., native moved up fifth on W&M's career rushing list (2,579) and career rushing touchdowns list (23).
Sophomore linebacker Dante Cook came up big for the second consecutive week, as he returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter. The electrifying play marked the second week he has recorded a pick-six, while it was the third by W&M this season.
Making his first start as the Tribe's quarterback, junior Michael Paulus completed 20-of-28 passes for 211 yards with a pair of interceptions. Senior wide receiver Chase Hill totaled five catches for 55 yards, while sophomore wideout Ryan Moody had five catches for 61 yards.
W&M got on the scoreboard first when Grimes capped off a 13-play, 86-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Paulus was efficient leading the scoring drive, as he completed 7-of-8 passes for 66 yards.
The Tribe pushed the lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter on a 4-yard scamper by Grimes. The touchdown was set up on the preceding play when Paulus connected with Moody for a 36-yard completion deep down the middle.
W&M's third touchdown came via Cook's interception. Facing a fourth-and-2 from the Tribe's 17-yard line, Villanova (3-2, 1-1) quarterback Chris Whitney lofted a short pass to the right side that Cook intercepted and returned 84-yards down the Tribe sideline for a touchdown with 5:03 left in the second quarter.
Villanova put its first points on the board when placekicker Nick Yako kicked a 26-yard field goal with 7 seconds remaining in the half.
Grimes third touchdown of the day, a 6-yard run with 7:13 showing in the third quarter, gave the College its biggest lead at 28-3.
W&M later answered Villanova's first touchdown, a 3-yard run by Whitney, with a 42-yard field goal by Drake Kuhn - his first collegiate field goal attempt - to lead 31-10 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Villanova responded with a 4-yard touchdown run by Whitney, and Norman White made a leaping 47-yard touchdown catch (on a fourth-and-28) with 2:10 remaining to cut the Tribe's lead to a touchdown.
However, Grimes came up with the ensuing onside kick, and W&M was able to pick up a first down and run out the clock.
The Tribe will return to action next weekend when it hosts Rhode Island on Saturday at 7 p.m.