Following last week’s grind-it-out victory over Bucknell, W&M will again go on the road for its second game of the season. In what will assuredly be its toughest test of the year, the Tribe will face off against a strong #12 (FBS) Virginia Tech squad that is coming off a big-time road victory over Florida State on national television.
As W&M fans know, the team plays against one “big” FBS team each season. It’s great for recruiting, and fun for Tribe fans who are able to travel to these games — and of course, it’s fun for all of us to watch the game from home. The last time these two teams met in Blacksburg (2014), Tech was unranked, beating W&M by a 34-9 margin. This year’s Hokies look to be much stronger than the team the Green and Gold played back in 2014.
There will likely be glimmers of hope for the Tribe in this contest, but the most we can ask for is for our boys to come out injury-free and ready for CAA play next week — when the outcome really matters. Roll Tribe Roll.
Virginia Tech This Season
Prior to the year, Virginia Tech was picked to finish #2 in the Coastal Division of the ACC (which is split into two divisions: Coastal and Atlantic, both with 7 teams) — behind only Miami. Last season, Tech finished 9-4, and returned several starters this season. With Clemson currently serving as the cream of the ACC crop (garnering 139 of 148 first place votes), it’s an open question as to which ACC team, if any, will vie with the Tigers for the crown. Early in the season, Tech seems like a potential suitor for that role.
In addition to the ACC poll, the Hokies came into the season ranked as the #20 team in all of the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision). With last week’s 24-3 victory over #19 Florida State, Virginia Tech catapulted to #12 in the Associated Press poll, and will play the Tribe with that ranking this week. The Virginia Tech defense absolutely smothered the Seminoles in the season opener, forcing 3 interceptions and even more impressively, allowing 0 touchdowns on the night. That doesn’t bode well for a young, inexperienced W&M quarterback (Shon Mitchell), but Jimmye Laycock will certainly have some tricks up his sleeve in this one.
VT Players to Watch
DB Reggie Floyd (#21): Last season, Floyd appeared in all 13 games, making 12 starts. In those games, he totaled 72 tackles, three tackles for loss, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. In last week’s season opener against the Seminoles, Floyd again found himself all over the field making plays, finishing with 9 solo tackles and 2 tackles for loss. Expect #21 to be matched up with the Tribe’s top receiver, DeVonte Dedmon, early and often on Saturday.
QB Josh Jackson (#17): Last season, as a redshirt freshman, Jackson started all 13 games for Tech. He threw for 2,991 yards and 20 touchdowns, while rushing for 324 yards and six touchdowns. His passing totals and 236 completions led all Power Five conference freshmen quarterbacks, and were also good enough to set freshmen school records in TD passes, passing yards, and number of 200+ passing yard games (9). To say the future is bright for this redshirt sophomore might just be an understatement. Last week against Florida State, Jackson picked up where he left off last season, completing 16 of 26 passes for 207 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 interceptions.
LB Dylan Rivers (#44): Virginia Tech’s leading tackler last season was Tremaine Edmunds, who finished with 108 total tackles and 5.5 sacks. Suffice to say, Tremaine was drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Bills in the offseason, leaving a big void for Tech Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster to fill this year. Next man up: Dylan Rivers. Rivers saw limited playing time last season as a true freshman, recording just three tackles, but with the graduation of Edmunds, he has seen his role increase significantly. Last week, Rivers finished second on the team in total tackles (behind only the aforementioned Reggie Floyd), with 7 total tackles against the #19-ranked Florida State Seminoles. Look for #44 to attempt to stop the W&M run game this week.
WR Eric Kumah (#83): As a sophomore last season, Kumah had a relatively quiet year. He played in all 13 games, and made eight starts, recording 28 receptions for 324 yards and 2 touchdowns. The former 4-star ESPN recruit seems poised for a big season this year, as he burst onto the scene last week against Florida State. In the season opener, Kumah led the team with 4 receptions, 86 yards, and 1 TD. He also added a punt block on special teams, which he scooped and scored — sealing Florida State’s fate. Look for W&M’s top cornerback, Raeshawn Smith, to match up with Kumah this weekend.
W&M Keys to Victory
- Force Turnovers Early and Often: The last time William & Mary upset an FBS opponent was during the 2009 campaign, on the road against UVA. In that contest, the Tribe forced 3 interceptions (all courtesy of B.W. Webb, now with the New York Giants), and seven total turnovers en route to a 26-14 victory. Any time an FCS team wants to compete with an FBS team, it absolutely has to win the turnover battle — typically by a large margin. Some of this requires luck, but the other side of the equation comes down to position and skill. W&M’s strong suit, its defense, must cover well and sprint to the ball on every play this weekend.
- Get DeVonte Dedmon the Ball: Speaking of defeating UVA, the Green and Gold nearly accomplished the feat again in the 2015 campaign, when the Tribe narrowly lost, 35-29. In that game, W&M came out firing through the air. QB Steve Cluley actually finished with 226 yards, 3 TD, and 0 interceptions. Guess who his favorite target was? That’s right, DeVonte Dedmon. Dedmon, a sophomore, finished with 7 receptions for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns. W&M’s best offensive player will need the ball in his hands any way he can get it this weekend — whether that be on screens, deep balls, intermediate routes, or even sweeps and handoffs. Get the ball to #11 early, and we have a shot.
- Keep Mitchell Upright: One of the pervasive memories we have from W&M’s last contest against Virginia Tech is a raucous crowd and great Hokies pass rush. It’s one experience to play Bucknell on the road in front of less than 10,000 people; it’s another experience to play in front of 60,000+ people against #12 Virginia Tech. With that being said, pre-snap can be a hellish time for visiting opponents, especially those from visiting FCS teams. Keeping the Tribe’s sophomore QB, Shon Mitchell, upright and in control will be paramount for the W&M offensive line this week.
- Excellent Coaching: This goes without saying, but a great game plan could be the difference between whether this game is close, or a complete blowout. Everything from the offensive strategy — short, quick passes, a balance of the run and the pass, and trick plays sprinkled in, to defensive strategy — minimizing Tech’s big plays, forcing turnovers, sending and blitzers at opportune times, to special teams play — getting to the ball as quickly as possible, shrinking the field, and negating big plays — it’s all vital for success. What W&M does have is a 39-year Head Coach in Jimmye Laycock who is well aware of all of this. If there’s one thing we’re certain of, it’s that the Green and Gold will be ready to play for their future Hall of Fame coach this Saturday in his last-ever FBS game.
Viewing: When & Where
Time: Saturday, 2:00 PM
Location: Lane Stadium (Blacksburg, VA)
Watch: ACC Network (ESPN stream) — find the link here!
W&M 20, Virginia Tech 17
This year’s W&M offense doesn’t boast the firepower that it has in year’s past. The route to victory comes through incredible defensive play, multiple forced turnovers, an off day for the Tech offense, and a W&M offense that does just enough to get the job done on the road.
LET’S GO TRIBE!!!