Preview: William & Mary vs. Lafayette

Lafayette QB, Drew Reed (Kevin Mingora, The Morning Call)
Lafayette QB, Drew Reed (Kevin Mingora, The Morning Call)

This week, the Tribe will take on the Lafayette Leopards, a squad that W&M is playing against for the third season in a row. And although these two teams are familiar with each other, both teams have undergone significant changes in the offseason. The Tribe will look to go up 2-1 in the overall series against Lafayette with a win this Saturday.

Last Meeting with the Tribe: Last season, the Tribe handily defeated the Leopards 34-6 on the road. The Leopards were held to two field goals (both of which coming in the second half) and Lafayette’s defense did not show well against the Tribe, giving up three touchdowns. Unsurprisingly for the Tribe, defense and a strong run game stole the day in the victory.

Running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor carried the ball 14 times for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns. Then-QB Michael Graham managed the game with a serviceable 146 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Wide receiver Sean Ballard also went off with 6 catches and 105 yards. Defensively, the Tribe dominated against both the pass and against the run. W&M turned in two interceptions, returning both for touchdowns–one of which by Airek Green. The defense also held Lafayette to just 73 yards (3.0 yards per carry) in the entire game.

Lafayette This Year: The Leopards have played two games this year, beginning the season with a 1-1 record. A 27-14 loss over Sacred Heart in week one was followed up with a 50-3 trouncing of Robert Morris.

Statistics through Lafayette’s first two games show that they prefer to run a balanced offense–with a slight edge going to the run. In two games, the team has thrown the ball a combined 65 times and run the ball 81 times. The Leopards’ run game particularly flourished last week against the lowly Robert Morris, as Lafayette posted 324 yards on the ground alone, averaging 6.5 yards a carry.

Lafayette’s Players to Watch: This year’s Lafayette team boasts a new quarterback in #7 Drew Reed, a sophomore from the state of Tennessee. Reed came in at the end of last season for the Leopards and won the CFPA FCS National Freshman Performer of the Year award en route to helping the Leopards win the Patriot League. Reed completed 132 of 182 pass attempts, threw 17 touchdown passes and just 5 interceptions a season ago. In this season’s the first two games, Reed has thrown for 280 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions–already matching his interception total from last year.

As mentioned earlier, Lafayette dominated in the run game last week against the Robert Morris Colonials. #29 Ross Scheuerman is the senior tailback who leads the way for the Leopards. In Lafayette’s first game against Sacred Heart, Scheuerman rushed for 63 years (6.3 yards per carry), and against Robert Morris last week, he ran the ball for a whopping 173 yards (7.9 yards per carry). Scheuerman was handed the ball a lot last week, 22 times in fact, which may be a theme that continues against the Tribe this weekend.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Leopards maintain two serviceable linebackers who have a nose for the ball in #54 Mark Dodd and #38 Chris Brockman. These two have combined for 30 tackles in the young season, and will look to hit the gaps against the Tribe run game this Saturday. Lastly, I want to quickly mention the sophomore kicker #14, Ryan Forrester. One of Lafayette’s weaknesses may be in the kicking game, as Forrester has only connected on one field goal of 30 yards or more (1-3 in those attempts). It’ll be something to keep an eye on this Saturday.

Tribe Keys to Victory:

  • Keep the interceptions coming. Lafayette’s quarterback has already thrown 5 interceptions in two games. Couple that with the way the Tribe has been picking off the ball lately and this could spell doom for Lafayette’s offense.
  • Re-establish the run game. Last week was the Tribe’s worst outing on the ground this season, as the team gained a meager 68 total yards rushing. Time to fix that.
  • Don’t give up big plays on defense. This has been a problem for the Tribe so far. Every now and then, the opposing team has ripped off a big run or taken a short pass for 30+ yards. Rushing to the ball and sure tackling will take care of that.

Tribe Injury Updates: Tre McBride started last game and is back in full swing, as evidenced by his 55 yard touchdown reception from Steve Cluley. We wouldn’t be surprised if we saw another this week.

Prediction: Tribe 35 Lafayette 13
Although Lafayette finished last season strong by winning the Patriot League, the Patriot League does not match up to the Colonial Athletic Association. The Tribe is one of the top teams in the CAA this year, and they will show it in this game. Roll Tribe.
You can check out the official game notes here!

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