VILLANOVA, Pa.—It was a crucial call — and a confusing one.
Down 7-0 after falling victim to a 57-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game, William and Mary seemed ready to rally. After Tribe quarterback R.J. Archer was intercepted in the end zone as the Tribe tried to answer Villanova's early TD, his defense appeared to give him the ball right back.
Chris Whitney completed a short slant to Dorian Wells, who was immediately met by Tribe sophomore cornerback Terrell Wells in a full-force, helmet-smacking collision that stopped the receiver well short of the first down.
"We had been preparing for that play throughout the entire week," William and Mary's Wells said. "They had gotten a lot of yards on those under routes, coming around and coming up the other sideline, and I was just sitting there waiting on it."
What happened next is something of a mystery.
Terrell Wells stood over Dorian Wells for a few moments, as players from both teams jawed at each other. Several seconds after the hit, a flag flew, the Tribe was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul, and the Wildcats had a first down. Six plays later, Villanova was in the end zone and up 14-0.
William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said he was told the penalty wasn't on Wells, but on another of his players. Villanova coach Andy Talley was convinced the flag was for the original helmet-to-helmet contact.
"He was running right at him. It was a perfect shot," Talley said. "But it worked in our favor and kept the drive going. It was a critical call."
Though unsure if he shouldered the blame, Terrell Wells felt the tide turn.
"It's a big change in momentum, and it's a little shock right there," he said. "But when you're a good defense, you have to step up and turn things around."