William & Mary entered the season unranked and only received two first place votes in the CAA preseason football poll. The doubters were silenced as Mike London led the Tribe to the first 10-win season in school history and the first FCS Playoffs appearance since 2015. The Tribe won three ranked matchups and opened the season with a 41-24 FBS win over Charlotte as William & Mary won the 3rd CAA championship in school history.
The Tribe were selected as the 5th overall seed in the 2022 FCS Playoffs and will face Big South champion Gardner-Webb in the second round this Saturday. Gardner-Webb won a high scoring first round game against Eastern Kentucky as the Runnin’ Bulldogs totaled over 400 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns.
Head coach Mike London spoke about the challenges on stopping the Runnin’ Bulldogs rushing attack this upcoming weekend.
“It was awesome. They put up over 500 total yards, 405 yard rushing. One of the running backs (Narii Gaither) had like 245 yards. I mean watching him break tackles, attack vertical spacing, and horizontal spacing. The quarterback (Bailey Fisher) did a great job distributing the ball, but they were proficient and efficient in their running game and created a lot of chunk runs and explosive plays where they made guys miss.”
The Tribe defense will also have to face quarterback Bailey Fisher who was awarded the Big South Offensive Player of the Year this season. London also addressed the challenges that Fisher presents and how the Tribe defense would have to prepare for this matchup.
“He does things to keep the ball alive and then he’s got receivers that can go up and get it as well. You know he can use his legs and then he can use his arm to extend the passes downfield and distribute the ball. They will spread you out and throw the ball out in space and say, “Tackle my guy; my guy is better than yours,” and they can make you miss.”
The Tribe will look to make their first run to the quarterfinals since 2009 when William & Mary made a semifinals appearance. London spoke about what the keys will be for the Tribe to win against a talented Gardner-Webb team.
“They were able to get up early with 21 points in the first quarter. We have to make sure that we play sound defense, run to the ball, rally to the ball, then stone on the perimeter. Then on offense is continuing to keep doing what we’ve done in terms of running the ball and then when we can to throw the ball deep… We have to make sure we limit the return game opportunities, but at the same time create those opportunities for DreSean (Kendrick) or Bronson Yoder or whoever is back there so we can get the ball and extend our starting field position as well.”
The second round game between William & Mary and Gardner-Webb will be the first matchup between the two programs. Kickoff will be at 2pm/ET on ESPN+ at Walter J. Zable Stadium. The winner of this matchup will move on to the quarterfinals to face the winner of the Montana State vs Weber State.