Freshman Bronson Yoder is listed as a safety on the William & Mary football roster. That’s not inaccurate, but his contributions aren’t limited to the defensive side of the ball.
In addition to appearing in 10 games on defense, Yoder has been used as a running back and kick-returner this season. His versatility was on display in Saturday’s 55-19 triumph over Rhode Island. Yoder rushed for a career-high 144 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and matched a career high with 206 all-purpose yards against the Rams.
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He also broke William & Mary’s single-season record for kickoff return yards that was held by Jonathan Grimes. Yoder enters Saturday’s game against No. 21 Towson leading the nation in kickoff return yards (847) and kickoff return touchdowns (two), and ranks 10th nationally (FCS) in kickoff return average (27.3). He also ranks fourth in the CAA in all-purpose yards per game (123.1).
Yoder’s contributions to William & Mary’s victory over Rhode Island earned him a piece of the Colonial Athletic Association’s Rookie of the Week Award. He shared that honor with Maine quarterback Joe Fagnano.
It was the second time Yoder has earned a weekly accolade from the CAA. He was selected as the CAA Special Teams Player of the Week on Sept. 16 after he had 113 return yards, including a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, during a 38-10 victory over Colgate.
✅ 1⃣4⃣4⃣ rushing yds— William & Mary Tribe Football (@WMTribeFootball) November 11, 2019
✅ 2⃣0⃣6⃣ all-purpose yds
✅ #TribeFootball single-season KO ret/yds record
✅ W&M VICTORY‼️
✅ #CAAFB Rookie of the Week
🔗 https://t.co/dL3L9TJKMJ#GoTribe | #OurStateOurTribe pic.twitter.com/Ip4jjSFeiF
Yoder played both running back and defensive back at NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind. He was a finalist for Indiana’s Mr. Football Award after he rushed for 2,310 yards and 28 touchdowns and intercepted seven passes during his senior season. He said he had no objection when the William & Mary coaches asked him to fill multiple roles for the Tribe.
“I enjoy it for sure,” Yoder said. “Just any way I can make an impact is great. My reaction was just ‘I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’”
Yoder’s 144-yard rushing performance against Rhode Island helped the Tribe (4-6, 2-4 CAA) set a school record for yards rushing in a game (462), breaking the previous record of 453 that was set against Ohio Wesleyan in 1970.
Eight William & Mary players ran the ball against Rhode Island. Six of those players rushed for at least 25 yards.
“Anytime you break a record it’s a great feeling -- and to do it as a team and have that many guys be able to carry the ball … it’s not just one guy, it’s all of us,” Yoder said. “And to have an O line that can move guys to (allow us) to be able to break that record … it’s a fantastic feeling.”
The 55 points William & Mary scored against Rhode Island are the most the program has scored since the Tribe put up 63 at VMI in 2007, and William & Mary’s seven rushing touchdowns against the Rams are the most since the 1993 William & Mary team ran for seven TDs against VMI in 1993.
“You talk about freshmen -- the best thing about them is they get a chance to get older and get better,” William & Mary coach Mike London said. “You look at our team, our quarterback Donovan Lester, Bronson Yoder, (wide receiver) Kane Everson -- all those guys are young guys who are significant in our point production.”
William & Mary ended a five-game losing streak when it beat Elon 31-29 in five overtimes on Nov. 2. The Tribe will look to extend its winning streak to three games when it faces Towson at Zable Stadium on Saturday.
Maine’s Earnest Edwards is the only CAA player averaging more yards on kickoff returns (31.3) than Yoder (27.3).
“I guess we were just tired of losing,” Yoder said. “Five losses in a row isn’t a fun thing to have, and I think it just comes to a point where you just decide ‘We’re done with this.’ So we just rallied as one and came together.”