WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (TribeAthletics.com) - In each of its previous two games, William & Mary's offense had failed to show for the first half. The Tribe managed to pull out a win against Albany but couldn't escape last week's hole at Maine.
This week, W&M came out with a resolve that led to points on its first four possessions and a 40-14 win over Towson Saturday at Zable Stadium. The Tribe finished with 529 total yards, its most since 2019, and enjoyed its biggest victory margin of the season.
In a reversal of its last two games, in which it was outscored a by a combined 38-3 in the first half, William & Mary (5-2, 3-1 Colonial Athletic Association) led for all but the game's first 139 seconds.
"In our last few games, we were unable to start the way we wanted to in the first half," said running back Donavyn Lester, who rushed for 99 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. "We would always find ourselves in a hole.
"The motto and mindset this entire week from Coach (Christian, the offensive coordinator) Taylor this week was to start fast. So just having explosive plays early and building the confidence of the team is really what we needed."
Lester's big day came with his father, who has battled multiple health problems and recently underwent a kidney transplant, in the stands. His 21-yard touchdown with 5:53 left in the first quarter gave the Tribe a 21-3 lead. He added scoring runs of 12 and 1 to complete the blowout.
Also getting into the act was Bronson Yoder, who rushed for a season-best 82 yards, 47 of which came on the Tribe's first touchdown. Quarterback Darius Wilson ran for 48 yards and threw for 164 on 7-of-12 completions.
Electrifying freshman Malachi Imoh finished with 44 yards and had an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown called back by a penalty.
"I thought it was going to be a battle of who could run the ball better because they're a physical style of team," W&M coach Mike London said. "But we proved out there today that we're able to run the ball with authority.
"Towson's a very good football team, but I believe this team made a statement (that we're) tough and aggressive. That's what it's all about in the CAA when you're playing good teams like this."
None of this should overshadow what W&M's defense accomplished. Towson (3-4, 2-2) turned the ball over six times, the most forced by a Tribe defense since 2012 against Georgia State. Arguably the biggest came to start the third quarter, with Towson in W&M territory trailing 27-14.
Cornerback Ryan Poole separated the Tigers' Jerry Howard from the ball, and linebacker Trey Watkins recovered at the W&M 40. Five plays later, Lester's second touchdown gave the Tribe a 34-14 lead.
"Winning the turnover margin is a big point of emphasis for us as a team, especially for the defense," said defensive end Nate Lynn, who had three sacks, two of which forced fumbles W&M recovered. It was great to see that come to fruition today.
"The offense can get it done without our help. But when we can give them good field position and keep the momentum on our side by getting the ball back, that's always a plus."
And after an Arena League-like start, in which the teams combined for three touchdown in the first 4½ minutes, the Tribe's defense pitched a shutout in the second half.
Following last week's 27-16 loss at Maine, which ended its four-game winning streak, the Tribe gave a powerful response on both sides of the ball.
"We knew that what happened in Maine was an anomaly," Lynn said. "They're a great football team and they were more prepared.
"Today, we came out and played the way we know we're supposed to. We made the necessary adjustments, and it showed."
Towson coach Rob Ambrose saw it.
"They had a very good game plan," he said, "and they outplayed us in just about every phase of the game."
NEXT WEEK: The Tribe will head north to visit No. 5 Villanova (6-1, 4-0 CAA), which defeated Rhode Island 44-0 Saturday. The Wildcats' only loss this season came at Penn State.