Last week’s game against UVA went more or less as expected. The offense didn’t produce much, the defense held its own, and the special teams game was shaky. There were definitely some bright spots though. Tommy McKee showed his ability to run and function as a dual-threat QB (remember Raphael Ortiz?), the William & Mary rush defense gave up less than 100 yards on the ground, and Kris Hooper connected on an impressive 41-yard field goal.
This week, W&M turns to its next in-state opponent: The Norfolk State Spartans. The Tribe has had success against Norfolk State in recent years, and we expect nothing less this Saturday. There will be much to improve upon following last week’s Season Opener, and we believe the team will be up to the job.
A season ago, W&M faced off against Norfolk State in what was the unveiling of “new” Zable Stadium. The stands were rocking, the Tribe rushing offense exploded, and Zable stadium never looked better. The Spartans actually scored the first TD of the game, as the QB ran 26 yards for a touchdown to open the contest. The Tribe would respond in a big way, scoring the next 21 points, taking a 21-10 lead into half.
While then-quarterback Steve Cluley didn’t play particularly well, the Tribe rushing game was dominant in this one, going off for 277 yards on the ground and 5 touchdowns. And oh yeah, that was without star running back, senior Kendell Anderson. In his stead, freshman phenom Albert Funderburke tore it up (boy, do we miss him already), rushing for 137 yards and 3 TDs, including a 57-yard TD in the second half. Jonathan Dunn also played well, finishing with 89 rushing yards and 2 TDs.
The Green and Gold ultimately won the contest 35-10, christening new Zable in stellar fashion.
There isn’t much we can deduce about Norfolk State on tape this season, since they’ve only played one game. However, we do know that they finished last season 4-7 (3-5 MEAC), 7th (out of 11) in the conference. We also know that they dropped their Season Opener last Saturday to a Division II team in Virginia State. It was close, but still — Division II?! After a fumble recovery for a TD in the second quarter, the Spartans held a 10-7 lead going into half. However, they were stymied in the second half, losing by a score of 14-10.
Norfolk State graduated their QB Greg Hankerson last season, and will look to a new player under center this year. Much like the Tribe, Norfolk State played two QB’s in their first game (although one could hardly say W&M QB Brandon Battle played a significant amount of time against UVA). Despite their offensive woes, the Spartans defense appears strong, with three players receiving all-league preseason honors. Against Virginia State last weekend, the unit forced two interceptions, three fumbles, and had a fumble recovery in the endzone for a TD. This will be a good early season test for the Tribe offense.
- DL Chris Lee (#95): Last season, Lee led the team in TFL’s (13) and sacks (4.5), while adding 47 tackles. Lee, a preseason First-Team all-league selection on defense, is an imposing force along the defensive line, and will look to get to Tommy McKee on Saturday. In last week’s contest against Virginia State, the 6’3″ 280 pound Lee did not register a sack, but added 5 tackles and 2 QB Hits. Look for Lee to play a factor in the pass rush and run game this weekend. #95 is definitely the #1 name to watch out for on the Spartans defense this Saturday.
- True Freshmen QBs Juwan Carter (#8) & Tripp Harrington (#13): Like we said before, Norfolk State played 2 quarterbacks in their first game. Carter finished with more passes, going 6 of 19 for 67 yards and an INT. Harrington finished 6 of 12 for 49 yards. While those may not seem like impressive numbers (because they aren’t), don’t forget that both of these quarterbacks are great runners. Carter, a former 5A Offensive Player of the Year out of Highland Springs HS in Richmond, had 39 yards rushing on just 4 carries, while Harrington gained 23 yards on 6 attempts. W&M has had a tough time stopping dual-threat QB’s in the recent past (see JMU’s Bryan Schor, Vad Lee; Delaware’s QB a couple years back, UNH and Maine QBs last year, etc.). It’ll be interesting to see how the Tribe defense performs against the dual-threat QB(s) this weekend, and a good early test prior to CAA play.
- Junior WR Marcus Taylor (#5): Yes, Norfolk State threw for just 116 total yards between their 2 QBs last week. But of these 116 yards, Taylor had 84 of them on 7 receptions (that’s 72.4% of last week’s passing yards, in case you were wondering). Taylor was the focal point of the offense in week 1, and we’ll look for that to continue this week. As an additional note, he finished as the leading receiver for Norfolk State last season. W&M shutdown corner Aaron Swinton should be back in the lineup this week and will see plenty of Taylor. We’ll expect this to be the matchup of the weekend. Look out for #5.
- Sophomore DB Bobby Price (#7): In just his sophomore year, NSU DB Bobby Price is making an impact. In the first game of the year, Price led the team with 10 tackles and added one interception. It will be Price’s job to shut down W&M’s deepest position group, the WRs, this weekend. Look for the Virginia Beach product to lock in on the Tribe’s #1 on Saturday.
- Pass the Ball: Do we need to say more? Last week’s performance left us wanting more. We love what Tribe QB Tommy McKee can do with his legs; now we want to see what he can do with his arm. Open it up and take advantage of our strong receiving corps. We’ll look for the Tribe’s new Offensive Coordinator D.J. Mangas to also dial up some designed QB runs — perhaps a QB draw or two and some read option plays. While we want Tommy to open up the passing game, we can’t ignore his running ability. It can only help him, as his constant threat to run will keep defenses on their toes, and open passing lanes.
- Contain their Quarterback(s): These guys are athletes. They know how to run. It’s almost like they’re running backs playing at the quarterback position. Seeing as both of the Spartans’ QBs are true freshman, it’ll be up to the Tribe’s Defensive Coordinator Trevor Andrews to throw in some exotic packages and blitzes to get their heads swimming. A multiple-sack game would do wonders for a Tribe defense that was overly starved for sacks last season.
- Force Turnovers: When Norfolk State does elect to pass this weekend, we’ll look for one of the FCS’ best defensive backfields from a season ago (the Tribe) to shine. An interception (or two, or three) wouldn’t hurt, and a pick-six can only help the cause. Big plays should be expected this weekend, and it’ll be up to the Tribe to step up to the plate to get the job done on the defensive side of the ball. And let’s not soon forget that W&M forced two big fumbles against UVA last week. Luckily for the Cavaliers, they were able to recover both. Let’s not let the Spartans be so lucky on Saturday.
Viewing: When and Where
Time: 6:00 PM
Location: William “Dick” Price Stadium (Norfolk, VA)
Watch: Streaming on Spartan Video Streaming (Unfortunately, it’s for purchase. $8)
W&M Sports Blog Prediction
Tribe 27 Spartans 10
It might be close early, but W&M will get back on track this week against an overmatched Norfolk State team. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!