__Phillips and high-powered passing game run into Liberty’s stout defense__
Coming off an impressive victory on the road against Virginia Military Institute, the Tribe (1-1) will take the field Saturday night to battle Liberty University (2-0) at Zable Stadium. The College will attempt to record its first home victory since Sept. 23 of last year, when they topped VMI 38-6.
p. Everything clicked for the Tribe a week ago as the team tallied the most points in head coach Jimmye Laycock’s tenure at the helm, defeating VMI 63-16. The College’s attention now shifts toward Liberty, who enters Saturday’s game undefeated on the season. The Flames hope to record their first victory over the Tribe, who lead the series 3-0. The Flames fell to the College 14-13 last season.
p. “We were very fortunate to get the win over Liberty last year,” Laycock said. “[This season] they look even better than they did last year. They’re a very physical team, but a team that likes to run the football. They have very good backs, pound the ball on you, have a big offensive line and defensively they make plays.”
p. The Tribe’s red-hot offense will be assisted by the return of senior wide receiver Joe Nicholas, who missed the season’s first two games with a knee injury. Nicholas led the Tribe in receptions, total receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2006. In his absence the College rallied behind strong wide-out play from sophomore R.J. Archer, redshirt freshman Cameron Dohse and junior Elliot Mack.
p. While the offense welcomes back Nicholas, the unit will be forced to carry on without senior fullback Matt Otey and redshirt freshman running back Courtland Marriner, as both sustained injuries against VMI. The loss of Marriner comes on the heels of the speedy redshirt freshman’s 107-yard breakout performance against VMI. Marriner’s sharp cuts and aggressive change-of-pace running helped open up the field for junior quarterback Jake Phillips, who is playing with a poise and consistency that was lacking a year ago.
p. “Last year [Phillips] had a tendency to run all the time, to get panicked,” junior running back DeBrian Holmes said. “I’m noticing that this year he is standing in the pocket, going through all of his reads. I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I’ve seen a lot of improvement.”
p. Holmes, who set a career high with three rushing touchdowns against VMI, will look to build on his end-zone success against a Liberty defense that has allowed just one rushing touchdown on the young season.
p. Something will have to give Saturday, as the Tribe’s high-powered passing attack enters the contest averaging 354.0 yards per game, while the Flames’ defensive unit has been stout against the pass, limiting opponents to 147.0 yards per game through the air.
p. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. The College has fared poorly under the lights at Zable, carrying just a 1-4 record after dark. Regardless, the Tribe has had success against opponents in Liberty’s conference, boasting a 9-0 record against Big South foes.
Photo by Spencer Atkinson.