immye Laycock's halftime chat with Jake Phillips was remarkably brief and upbeat Saturday afternoon.
"You ain't gonna play any worse," William and Mary's coach told his senior quarterback.
Indeed, it's difficult to imagine any quarterback, let alone one of Phillips' caliber, enduring a more nightmarish half.
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
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
-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.
Stunningly, at least to those of us with little faith, the Tribe outgained the Spiders — Richmond is ranked fourth nationally in total defense — 231-35 during the third and fourth quarters. And when Derek Cox returned a punt 80 yards for W&M's first touchdown, the lead was a mere 20-13 with 3:02 remaining.
The Tribe had all three timeouts remaining, and the defense was suffocating quarterback Eric Ward and tailback Josh Vaughan. The chalk call was to kick away.
"What the heck?" Laycock said.
"I didn't play this one by the book."
Brian Pate's onside kick bounced high off the artificial turf, and Archer — told you he should have been playing! — collared the ball like a rebound at the Tribe 41.
"The guy went
on us," Richmond coach Mike London said.
That would be old-school Shaq, the one who could jump.
Four Phillips completions later, including a 7-yarder to tight end Rob Varno on fourth-and-2, W&M had third-and-goal at the 1 with 21 seconds remaining. Phillips' sneak and Pate's point-after forced overtime.
But Richmond defensive end Sherman Logan blocked Pate's 39-yard field-goal try, and Andrew Howard then kicked the Spiders into postseason with a 37-yarder.
Phillips threw two more picks in the second half to finish with six.
Last season he threw seven in 336 passes.
After what was certainly his final home game and perhaps his final college game, Phillips was gracious enough to answer questions.
There were no tears or outbursts. Just disappointment in himself and praise for his teammates — as you'd expect from a leader.
The one throw he most regrets: a second-quarter crossing route for D.J. McAulay that free safety Derek Hatcher intercepted and returned 35 yards for a touchdown that extended Richmond's lead to 17-0.
"A testament to our team," Phillips called the rally.
The Tribe can only hope the 10-member NCAA selection committee, meeting in Indianapolis, witnessed the game and appreciated its caliber. One thing that can't hurt: A CAA athletic director, Massachusetts' John McCutcheon, chairs the panel.
Laycock has no team meeting planned to watch the pairings and doesn't intend to torment himself parsing possible selections.
"I used to do that," he said. "I hope I've got better things to do with my time."
"I think it's a long shot," Laycock said.
So was Saturday's comeback.