Jimmye Laycock has coached too long to attempt to explain the inexplicable. And when he's the beneficiary, he simply says "Thank you" and moves on.
Laycock's William and Mary football team attempts to extend its unusual winning streak against New Hampshire when the two teams meet noon Saturday in Durham, N.H.
The Tribe (2-6, 1-4 CAA) has won the past nine meetings, and Sean McDonnell has never beaten W&M as the Wildcats' head coach.
"I couldn't put my finger on it, I really couldn't," Laycock said. "They've got good teams, they've got good players. Obviously, they go to the playoffs and Sean does a heck of a job up there. We've come up with different ways to get wins. This year will be a challenge, that's for sure."
Indeed, New Hampshire (7-2, 5-1 CAA) has been to the Football Championship Subdivision eight consecutive years — the nation's longest active streak — and is knocking on the door for a ninth.
William and Mary has beaten UNH with good teams and average teams, in good weather and bad weather, with offense and with defense, in shootouts and low-scoring grinders. The Tribe doesn't have schematic or consistent matchup advantages, just nine straight wins.
New Hampshire is ranked 11th in this week's Sports Network poll and was in the top 10 in each of the previous five games versus W&M.
The Tribe's most notable wins during the streak may have been 2005 and 2010. In '05, UNH entered unbeaten and ranked No. 1 and was run out of Zable Stadium on a soggy day, 42-10, by a Tribe team that eventually finished 5-6.
Two years ago, William and Mary tied for the CAA title and earned the league's automatic playoff berth. But injuries at quarterback — sound familiar? — forced the Tribe to start third-stringer Brent Caprio at New Hampshire. When he was injured in the third quarter, W&M used fourth-stringer Terrance Schmand, didn't attempt a pass the last quarter-and-a-half, and finished with more punts than first downs in a 13-3 win.
Last year, a W&M team that eventually finished 5-6 defeated the No. 6, playoff-bound Wildcats 24-10. UNH had 517 yards of offense, but only 10 points, thanks in part to four turnovers and an inability to convert scoring chances.
"Last year wasn't any secret, it was Jon Grimes," Laycock said. "He broke big plays."
The record-breaking Grimes totaled 295 yards rushing and receiving, turning two short passes into 72- and 50-yard touchdowns.
The Tribe has no Grimes on which to rely, and again there are quarterback questions, as starter Raphael Ortiz nurses a shoulder injury. Laycock said Ortiz's status likely won't be determined until later in the week.
Job one is keeping the players focused and engaged, despite a disappointing season that has seen them lose four games by a total of eight points.
"This is a good football team that's a little bit snakebit this year," McDonnell said, "hasn't been able to get things done."
William and Mary's trend of close losses was interrupted last week, with a 24-10 loss to Maine. The Tribe had a bye week to rest and prepare, but came up short at various times in all three phases versus the Black Bears.
"Every game's different, every year's different," Laycock said. "You just don't know what you're going to do from one week to the next. Just like last week for us. We played poorly. I would have expected us to play much better, but we didn't. It's hard to understand. It wasn't because we didn't practice well.
"You do the best you can, you just go out and see and then it's how things unfold in ball games, how players react. I don't know. You try to make rhyme or reason out of some of those things, it's just so hard."Copyright © 2015, CT Now