Game Preview: W&M vs. #19 New Hampshire

Riding a 5-game losing streak, your William & Mary Tribe will look to right the ship against a top-half CAA foe in the New Hampshire Wildcats this Saturday. The game marks the second-to-last contest within the friendly confines of Zable Stadium, and the first of two home games in a row, before the Green and Gold closes out the season at Richmond.

It’s now safe to say that this has been a year to forget for the Tribe. At this point, and since a playoff run is out of the question, we’re looking for a few key things: 1. What’s going to happen at the quarterback position? 2. Will the Tribe defense continue its strong play? 3. Can the Tribe running game get back on track? — among other things. We did our research, and New Hampshire will prove to be no pushover this Saturday. Let’s take a deeper look at this season’s Wildcats squad.


New Hampshire this Year

Going into the year, New Hampshire was picked to finish #4 in the CAA. Right now, the Wildcats actually sit tied for 4th in the league with a 5-3 (3-2 CAA) record; they’re tied with the upstart Delaware Blue Hens, who boast the same exact record. However, it’s safe to say that although New Hampshire has posted some impressive team statistics, they haven’t necessarily ripped of a signature win so far this year. Their wins include triumphs over: Maine (by 1 point), Georgia Southern, Rhode Island, Bryant, and Towson — not very impressive. Conversely, they have posted losses against: Holy Cross, #21 Stony Brook, and #1 JMU. We should note that two out of the three losses that New Hampshire has experienced so far this season have come against nationally-ranked CAA teams. So while this New Hampshire team may be good, it might not actually be great. They’re beatable.

[via caasports.com]
Remember when we mentioned that New Hampshire has posted some impressive team statistics on the season? Let’s check them out:

  • #2 Passing Offense (269.0 passing yards per game)
  • #3 Total Offense (393.9 total yards per game)
  • #4 Scoring Offense in the CAA (26.1 points per game)

Oh, we forgot to mention that those impressive statistics only pertain to the New Hampshire offense, and specifically, the passing offense. To elaborate on that point, let’s check out some of New Hampshire’s defensive rankings:

  • #8 Scoring Defense (opponents average 24.1 points per game)
  • #9 Total Defense (opponents average 368.9 total yards per game)
  • #10 Pass Defense (opponents average 229.8 passing yards per game)

It’ll be no surprise what the Wildcats’ game plan will be on Saturday: throw the ball, play good enough defense, and come away with the win. It’ll be up to the Tribe defense, a stronger than expected unit, to step up and get the job done in Zable. So in what will likely be the matchup of the game, expect the #4-ranked W&M passing defense to turn in a strong performance against New Hampshire’s #2 passing offense.


Players to Watch

  1. Junior WR (#82) Neil O’Connor: Following up on his All-CAA Third Team finish a year ago, O’Connor was picked as a preseason All-CAA selection; up to this point, he sure has delivered. Through 8 games, he has already hauled in 63 passes for 936 yards and 9 touchdowns. He averages an astounding 117 receiving yards per game (#1 in the CAA), as looks nearly unbeatable in coverage. His 7.88 receptions per game is also good enough to lead the entire CAA. #34 will prove
    UNH wide receiver Neil O’Connor is posting a career season, leading the league in several statistical categories. [photo via unhwildcats.com]
    the biggest test for the W&M cornerbacks this weekend. Keep an eye on #34 when the Wildcats offense takes the field.
  2. Sophomore S (#13) Quinlen Dean: The UNH safety currently leads the team in total tackles, and it’s not even close. His 71 total tackles (#4 in the CAA) is 22 tackles higher than the team’s second place tackler (who has 49). Dean not only gets to opposing ball carriers, but also has 1 INT and 2 sacks to his name. He’s tied for first on the team in tackles for loss, with 6.5 on the year. Dean will be around the ball early and often; you can expect him to make plays not only in the open field, but also behind the line of scrimmage on Saturday.
  3. Junior QB (#18) Trevor Knight: Knight currently ranks #2 in the entire CAA in passing yards per game (255.1). Make no mistake: this is a pass first offense. #18 (Knight) to #82 (O’Connor) is a staple for a Wildcats offense that has proven it can air it out. On the year, Knight currently boasts 2,041 passing yards, 18 TDs, and 6 INT, while completing 60.07% of his passes. He’s efficient, and can spread the ball around the field. One crucial point: Knight actually left last week’s game against JMU with an injury. It remains to be seen if he’ll suit up this weekend. If he does, getting to Knight behind the line of scrimmage will be crucial for the William & Mary defense this Saturday.


W&M Keys To Victory

  • Shut Down the Passing Game: Like we said, the matchup of this contest will likely include the #4-ranked W&M passing defense against the league’s #2-ranked passing offense. W&M cornerback Aaron Swinton will likely have his hands full, as we expect him to blanket New Hampshire’s star WR Neil O’Connor this weekend. We believe Swinton’s up to the task.
  • Get to the Quarterback: If UNH QB Trevor Knight (or whoever lines up under center) is able to get into rhythm, it’ll be a long weekend for Tribe fans everywhere. Luckily, the William & Mary defense has turned in the second most sacks in the league (26) up to this point in the season. This marks a dramatic improvement over last year’s league-worst finish, which saw the Tribe finish with just 10 sacks. Led by senior captain and defensive end Matt Ahola, the Green and Gold defensive line will have to wreak havoc to get Knight off his game on Saturday.
  • Get the Offense going…: We put the “…” after this Key to Victory because it’s been a long time coming. And that’s an understatement. It remains to be seen whom Jimmye Laycock will start under center this weekend, but one thing is for certain: if the W&M offense can’t get going against the #9-ranked defense in the CAA, it’ll never get going this year. Luckily for us, we don’t have to make the decision about which QB will get the start. If we’re being completely honest, we haven’t seen much out of the three quarterbacks this season. But of the three, Brandon Battle is probably the one who has shown the most spark; perhaps he gets the start this weekend. Or perhaps true freshman Shon Mitchell gets another start in an effort to develop the freshman further. Or maybe Laycock is sick and tired of all the controversy, and will ride out the rest of the year with his most seasoned QB in junior Tommy McKee. It’s a roll of the dice at this point, but it’ll be interesting to see which QB gets the nod this weekend.

Viewing: When and Where
 

Time: Saturday, 2:00 PM
Location: Zable Stadium (Williamsburg, VA)
Watch: Tribe TV Online Stream — find the link here!

 Prediction 

Tribe 20, UNH 17

If the Tribe hopes to win this one, it’ll have to be a low-scoring affair. With the offensive woes W&M has experienced all season long, it’ll likely be up to the defense to keep the Wildcats offense in check. It remains to be seen what will happen for the W&M offense, but the opportunity is there. And we repeat: this is not a good UNH defense. It’s time to get the job done. See you in Zable this weekend — LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

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