Number 10 versus number 4. It doesn’t get much better than that. A well-rounded Tribe team will take on the New Hampshire Wildcats, an offensive power in the FCS. W&M is coming off the bye week with a mighty 4-1 record, and UNH, also 4-1, is riding high after a 2-0 start to CAA play–with wins over the lowly Elon Phoenix and against a strong Richmond Spiders team.
Last Meeting with the Tribe: As mentioned, UNH is currently known for its high-powered offense, and last season was no different. New Hampshire averaged 35.4 points per game last year before facing William and Mary. With that being said, the game is something UNH fans are still trying to forget.
William and Mary defeated New Hampshire 17-0, and it was the first time that UNH was shutout since 1995–a span of 220 games. The vaunted Tribe defense knocked out UNH’s starting QB, and hobbled their backup. The W&M defense was dominant in the matchup, and the offense did just enough to get the victory. Overall, William and Mary leads the all time series with UNH 14-3, and have won 10 of the last 11 dating back to 2001.
UNH this Year: This season, New Hampshire is off to a hot start, sporting a strong record of 4-1. Aside from their opening game loss at Toledo (FBS), the Wildcats have more than picked up the slack. They are led by the high powered offense, which averages an astounding 483 yards and 38.8 points per game.
Their closest game this season came against CAA-foe Richmond. It was a back and forth contest that ended with a 29-26 victory on the road for the Wildcats. UNH is ranked number 4 in the nation according to the Sports Network, and is ranked 6th in the coaches poll. William and Mary will need to bring their A game, as this will be the team’s biggest test so far this season.
Offensively, the Wildcats are ranked 7th in the nation in pass offense and 11th overall in total offense. DeAndre Houston-Carson and Trey Reed will be tested early and often, as will safeties Jared Velasquez and Ivan Tagoe. The Wildcats have also played all 3 quarterbacks so far this season, and they have all been effective. The primary starter is a redshirt junior in #5 Sean Goldrich, who has performed admirably when healthy with 900 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.
However, Goldrich has only played in 3 games. Without Goldrich, senior #14 Andy Vailas, has stepped in for some serious playing time. Vailas has also racked up a solid stat line with 494 yards, 4 touchdowns and one interception on the season. The quarterback position is an area of strength for this Wildcats team–keep an eye out to see if Goldrich or Vailas gets the start.
On Defense, thankfully it’s a different story. The Wildcats rank 54th against the run, 88th against the pass, and 72nd in overall defense in the nation. The team gives up around 400 total yards and 28 points per game–showing a propensity to get in high-scoring affairs. The Tribe will have to exploit this defense, as UNH’s offense is sure to put up points.
UNH Players to Watch:
Defensively, the team is led in tackles by a junior linebacker in #42 Akil Anderson, who in just 4 games has garnered 31 tackles. There really aren’t any superstars on this defensive squad, as evidenced by their rankings, and the talent seems to be spread around. However, seven players on UNH’s defense have at least 20 tackles, eight players have recorded a sack, and four players have at least one interception.
On offense, UNH shines and there are several players to keep an eye on. As previously mentioned, they have been led by sophomore quarterback Andy Vailas, who has been filling in for an injured Sean Goldrich. In addition to Vailas’ passing totals, he also has 192 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Vailas also holds a strong 67.2% completion percentage. He is something of a dual threat quarterback, who beat you with his legs when needed–watch out for #14 this Saturday.
Although Vailas is certainly good, the player who runs this offense is a senior wide receiver in #15 R.J. Harris. Through just 5 games, Harris has an eye-popping 567 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns! That ranks him 5th in the entire country in receiving yards per game. Harris averages around 113 receiving yards per game. He is certainly living up to his preseason 1st team all-CAA selection, and will likely be covered by Deandre Houston-Carson, in what is likely to be the matchup of the day.
Tribe Keys to Victory:
- Stop R.J. Harris. We know this will be no easy task, but slowing down R.J. Harris would certainly impact the UNH offense. Houston-Carson and all of the Tribe’s secondary will have to play their best in this game in order to keep Harris under 100 yards receiving.
- Do what we do best: Establish the run. If William and Mary, led by Mikal Abdul-Saboor, can create long, sustained drives, they will keep the powerful UNH offense off the field and give the Tribe defense time to recover.
- Take some shots downfield! Assuming we establish the run game, take some shots downfield and target the speedster DeVonte Dedmon or superstar Tre McBride. This game may require the Tribe to put up some points fast, especially if the team falls behind early. We’ll need Steve Cluley to stand toe to toe with the UNH offense and get the job done.
Tribe Injury Update: Two weeks ago against Stony Brook, Connor Hilland did not play; Nick Easter filled in for Hilland at left guard. Perhaps with two weeks, Hilland will be ready to regain his starting duties at the position.
The Tribe was also without linebacker Airek Green and punter Hunter Windmuller against Stony Brook, both of which were ruled out prior to the game by Jimmye Laycock. Green is nursing a toe injury, and Windmuller a shoulder injury. Keep an eye out for these players on the field on Saturday.
Viewing: This game, featuring a heated battle between two top-10 CAA foes can be viewed nationally on NBCSN (NBC Sports Network)!
Prediction: Tribe 28 New Hampshire 24
While we would love to predict a shootout, and have the score much higher than it is, I don’t think it is realistic for the current Tribe squad. If William and Mary is to have a shot at winning this one, they will need to stop UNH’s offense, and make this a low scoring, methodical game. If it goes to a shootout early, it may be a long one for the Tribe. Assuming W&M can get it done on defense, and establish the run to keep UNH’s offense off the field, the team will find a way to go into the Wildcats’ house and pull off the W. GO TRIBE!!!
Check out the official game notes here!