Press release courtesy of Dave Johnson,

WILLIAMSBURG- Having played seven overtimes the previous week, Rhode Island understandably wanted no part of another. So after scoring a touchdown on the game’s final play, the Rams chose to go for the win.

William & Mary linebacker Isaiah Jones practically blew it up by himself.

Jones stopped URI quarterback Kasim Hill five yards short of the goal line, and the No. 10/12 Tribe held on for a draining 31-30 win Saturday at Zable Stadium. Far from perfect with four turnovers, W&M (7-1, 4-1) was still able to beat a top-20 team and seriously boost its playoff credentials.

With a 7-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Caleb Warren on the final play, the Rams wanted to decide it with a two-point conversion try. Hill took the shotgun snap, backpedaled to his left, and looked to running back Gabe Sloat for a shovel pass.

Jones got in the way, forcing Hill to tuck the ball and run. Jones then made the stop to seal the Tribe’s fourth consecutive win.

“The last play was an all-out blitz to make sure the quarterback didn’t have time to sit back, take his time and make a clean throw,” Jones said. “I saw the guard and tackle pull to the field, so I stayed in my gap and read my keys like the coaches on defense emphasize.

“I was able to make the play by holding that shovel pass and by making the quarterback use his legs and tracking him down. And Tribe wins.”

Was there ever a doubt? You bet there was. Five seconds into the second quarter, William & Mary trailed 14-0, its biggest deficit of the season. Twice W&M went for it on fourth-and-1 — first from its 47-yard line, then at the URI 7 — and twice it failed to convert.

No. 17/18 Rhode Island (5-3, 3-2) had trouble stopping the Tribe’s running game, which ran for a season-best 314 yards. Bronson Yoder led the way with 113 yards and a touchdown, Malachi Imoh finished with 93 yards (92 in the second half) and a score, and Donavyn Lester added 52 yards and two touchdowns.

The only thing that stopped W&M on offense was itself. The Tribe matched a season high with four turnovers, one of which came at its 6-yard line and set up a Ram touchdown that made it 21-21 with 3:18 left in the third quarter.

“Rhode Island is a good team, a tough team,” W&M coach Mike London said. “For us to play well as a unit an overcome some turnovers, that’s what it’s about sometimes. I’m so proud of this team and the way we hung in there and fought back.”

Down 14-0, W&M scored three consecutive touchdowns to take a 21-14 lead on Imoh’s 10-yard run with 11:27 left in the third quarter. After URI tied it, W&M regained lead on a 26-yard field goal by Ethan Chang.

After the defense forced a three-and-out, Lester scored his second touchdown to put W&M ahead 31-21 with 8:51 left in the game.

The running game averaged 7 yards an attempt. The offense as a whole averaged 7.7 yards a play.

“On offense, our motto is if we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll win the game,” Lester said. “We were kind of shooting ourselves in the foot with the fumbles. We just want to do a better job on getting those turnovers fixed and we’ll do that on Sunday.

“We knew going into the game we were going to run the ball, so we just had to execute our reads, make one cut and go. Give all credit to the offensive line — Lachlan Pitts, Colby (Sorsdal), Bart (Francois), Ryan McKennaRian Haigler, and Charles Grant. They were doing a great job moving (their) D-line.”

How good have those guys been? In the last three games, W&M is averaging 295 rushing yards. And quarterback Darius Wilson hasn’t been sacked once.

Still, it came down to the game’s final play. And the Tribe looked as if it had a good idea what was coming.

“They played in a seven-overtime victory in their previous game, and you go back and watch a little history of (their) two-point plays,” London said. “The response to that was great. For (Jones) to chase him down in the open field and make a shoestring tackle was even better.”

It was the play of Isaiah Jones’ career. After making the stop, he jumped up with glee. Linebacker Trey Watkins tackled him, and goodness knows how many others piled on.

“That was surreal,” Jones said. “To make the last play, to guarantee us a win, is surreal. And I’m happy I could be able to celebrate with my brothers.

“It’s not just a me thing; it’s a we thing. So to be able to celebrate with my brothers and have them in my arms, to be on top of me, smiling, laughing, it’s a surreal feeling.”

Yoder rushed for at least 100 yards for the seventh time in his career, which puts him among the top 10 on W&M’s career list. With three regular-season games remaining, Yoder has 724 yards, the most by a W&M back since Kendell Anderson’s 1,077 in 2016. … William & Mary is 7-1 for the first time since the 2009 season, when it finished 11-3 and advanced to the NCAA semifinals. Seven wins are the most since the 2015 season. …The Tribe began the day in a four-way tie for second place in the CAA standings with Richmond, Rhode Island and Delaware. With the Blue Hens’ loss at Elon, it’s now W&M and the Spiders in second at 4-1. …Will Whitehurst punted only once, but it was a beauty. With three minutes left, his 41-yarder pinned Rhode Island at its 1. … For the second consecutive game, safety Tye Freeland was W&M’s leading tackler with eight. Marcus Barnes and John Pius had seven each.

Next week
William & Mary will head east down I-64 to visit CAA newcomer Hampton University Saturday. The Pirates (4-4, 1-4) lost at Villanova 24-10 Saturday.