Preview: #17 W&M vs. Hampton

WM vs HU

IT’S TIME TO COME BACK HOME! William & Mary will take on its cross-town foes, the Hampton Pirates, this Saturday at 3:30 PM. Williamsburg looks to be rocking as Tribe alumni from around the world will flock to Zable Stadium on Homecoming weekend–don’t miss out, BE THERE.

When this game was announced as the Homecoming matchup several months ago, we at the WMSB thought that this would probably be an automatic win. The Tribe has played the Pirates for several years now, and has always come out on top. W&M leads the overall series over Hampton, 5-0. However, Hampton landed a big-name FBS transfer quarterback from UVA this offseason, making this game a whole lot more interesting. Buckle up, Tribe fans.

Last Meeting with the Tribe: In last season’s matchup, the Tribe found itself on the road playing against a young Hampton team. W&M held the Pirates scoreless in the first half (17-0 at halftime), but had a hard time containing some of the Pirates’ well-executed short passing plays in the second half. Then-Hampton quarterback J.J. Williamson finished with 335 passing yards–the vast majority of which coming off of screen plays and short yardage throws with big runs after the catch. Hampton’s Jorrian Washington even took a short pass for 50 yards to the house in the 3rd quarter.

But in the end, the Tribe offense proved way too much for Hampton to handle. Offensively, the Green and Gold racked up a staggering 216 yards and FIVE touchdowns on the ground. Mikal Abdul-Saboor led the way with 18 carries for 107 yards and 3 touchdowns. DeVonte Dedmon, then a true freshman, tacked on 42 rushing yards, and Kendell Anderson punched in two rushing touchdowns of his own. The game would end with the score: Tribe 42 Pirates 14.

The Tribe pummeled the Pirates last season to the tune of 42-14. [photo: tribeathletics.com]
The Tribe pummeled the Pirates last season to the tune of 42-14. [photo: tribeathletics.com]
Hampton this Year: But guess what? This isn’t last year’s Hampton Pirates. Right now, Hampton currently sits 4th in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference at 4-3 (3-2), and is still very much in contention for the league crown. The Pirates started off the year strong, with a 2-1 record. Since then, the team has gone .500 with two wins and two losses.

The most noteworthy game was Hampton’s gut-wrenching loss to the CAA’s University of Richmond, in week two of this season. The Pirates came out of the gates firing, and held a staggering 21-7 lead in the second quarter. Hampton took a 21-10 halftime lead, and it truly looked as though Richmond would fall.

At the end of the third quarter, Hampton was up 28-16. Game done, it’s over. Have a solid fourth quarter, or even average one, and the game is definitely in the bag, right? The Spiders were knocked to the ground, but they would get back up again. Richmond would go on to score two huge touchdowns in the fourth quarter, one on the ground and one through the air, even tacking on a two-point conversion, to win the game 31-28.

Against Richmond, the Pirates racked up 337 yards of total offense, 249 of which coming through the air. All four of Hampton’s touchdowns came on passing plays. If Hampton had won that game, they would have begun the season 2-0 with a huge out of conference win. Who knows where they would be now. Despite the loss, this is an impressive feat that shows just how far Hampton has come from last season and the potential that this year’s team has. Watch out Tribe.

The former Wahoo, David Watford, will look to continue building on his strong season at the helm of the Hampton Pirates [photos via Virginia247Sports and the Daily Press]
David Watford, a Wahoo transfer, will look to continue building on his strong season at the helm for the Hampton Pirates this Saturday. [photos via Virginia247Sports and the Daily Press]
Hampton’s Players to Watch: The aforementioned transfer FBS quarterback is #2 David Watford. Watford has gone from UVA “bust” to Hampton phenom in a matter of months. He is the savior of the football program and is the undisputed leader of this season’s Pirates. This year, Watford has completed 54.62% of his passes for 1675 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He has also tacked on 288 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Don’t get it confused, this is by far a pass first team–Watford averages 239 passing yards to the running game’s 130 rushing yards per game.

In the Richmond game, Watford passed for 239 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Despite his strong performance, Watford’s lower completion rate leaves one wanting more, and his interception total is much too high. Perhaps this is a result of an offensive system change from UVA to Hampton in the offseason, and too little time to learn the playbook. Even still, he has shown that he can force balls at times, naturally leading to turnovers. But at his best, he can be a quarterback that can beat you with his arm and with his legs; when he doesn’t throw interceptions, he is a very good FCS quarterback.

With Watford on offense is his go-to target, #5 Twarn Mixson. Mixon is a 5’10” 166 pound redshirt junior who already has 625 yards and 6 touchdowns this season; he averages just over 89 yards per game. The Tribe’s cornerback Trey Reed will likely be tasked with shutting him down this Saturday.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker #45 Tyrone Ward leads the team in tackles. So far, Ward has accumulated 54 total tackles. At 6’0″ 233 pounds, Ward is an impressive force leading this Pirate defense. Joining Ward is another senior linebacker, #54 Joshua Thorne. Thorne is almost identical in height and weight to Ward, as Thorne has 44 total tackles on the season. Look for these two to make plays for Hampton’s defense this Saturday.

Zach Fetters has been a beast since returning from injury this season, and will look to fill the void left by Luke Rhodes' injury. [photo: Jesse Hutcheson / Daily Press]
Linebacker Zach Fetters has been a beast since returning from injury this season, and will look to fill the void left by Luke Rhodes’ injury. [photo: Jesse Hutcheson / Daily Press]
Tribe Keys to Victory:

  • Force Interceptions: David Watford is a good quarterback with the potential to play a great game. Let’s not let him do that on Saturday. Although good, Watford has shown that he is prone to interceptions, already with 11 on the year. The Tribe’s Trey Reed, along with safeties Jared Velasquez and DeAndre Houston-Carson will likely be key in the turnover game this Saturday.
  • Run The Ball: Short, sweet, and to the point. Why not take advantage of our incredible offensive line? Tribe running back Kendell Anderson has been an absolute monster up to this point in the season; let’s keep that going. And let’s not forget that W&M racked up 216 yards and five touchdowns on the ground against Hampton last year. We would like another 42-14 win this season, especially on Homecoming, wouldn’t you?
  • Throw The Deep Ball: As the Tribe pounds the rock on the ground, why not open up the passing game? Hampton is known for having a good offense this year, not for having a great defense. Tribe QB Steve Cluley has established that he can throw the deep ball, so let him do it. Look for wide receivers DeVonte Dedmon and Christian Reeves to gain some big-yardage plays this Saturday.

Tribe Injury Update:  Two-year captain, two-time First Team All-CAA award winner, and Butkus Award watch candidate Luke Rhodes was injured in last week’s game with an apparent lower body injury. As usual, W&M has not released any report on the extent of Rhodes’ injury. We can only hope that he has a very speedy recovery over the next several weeks, but it is just about 100% that he will not be playing in this week’s game against Hampton. Get well soon Luke!

Viewing: If you truly “can’t” get to Homecoming (BE THERE!), then you can watch the game live on TribeAthletics.TV –courtesy of W&M Tribe Athletics

Prediction: William & Mary 28 Hampton 17
William & Mary may start out slowly with some Homecoming jitters, but the Tribe will gain steam, especially behind a raucous Zable Stadium crowd. We predict that the Tribe will establish the ground game, mix in the deep ball, and hold David Watford in check. Have fun at Homecoming this weekend, Tribe fans! LET’S GO TRIBE!!!
Check out the official game notes here!

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