__Miscues on offense, special teams prove costly in loss; College finishes with more passing yards, first downs__
Facing the fastest offense and most accomplished defense the Tribe will match up against all season, in front of the largest and most raucous crowd the team will battle this year, the College preformed valiantly against Virginia Tech Saturday. The Hokies struggled at times to move the ball against a motivated Tribe defensive unit, but Tech pulled away after three quick scores at the end of the first quarter, capitalizing on defensive and special teams plays to defeat the Tribe 44-3 in front of more than 66,000 fans in Blacksburg’s sold-out Lane Stadium.
p. “We played against a very, very good football team,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I really hope its going to make us a better football team. I think it will, because we competed. That’s the biggest thing you look at when you come into a game like this and a situation like this. You are going to face adversity and you’re going to face things that are going to go against you here and there. I thought our guys hung in there and competed very well.”
p. It would have been easy for the College to lie down to one of the top teams in the nation, but the Tribe showed fight, especially on the defensive side of ball. The Tribe’s offense struggled to hit its stride early, resulting in excellent field position for the Hokies on their first few possessions, but the College’s defense held strong, forcing Tech to field goals on drives that started at the Tech 43 and Tribe 39 yard lines.
p. “In all phases, the defensive line played well, the linebackers played well, and the defensive backs played well,” sophomore safety David Caldwell said. “They weren’t able to throw the ball over our heads and they weren’t able to run the ball on us. We pretty much accomplished our goal for total yards. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re getting better and better.”
p. When the Hokies did make their move, it was not through dominating drives against the Tribe’s defense, but instead through the College’s mistakes. Tech notched five touchdowns in a six-minute span at the end of the first quarter and start of the second off of a punt return for touchdown, interception return for touchdown and a muffed punt that gave Tech the ball within the Tribe’s five-yard-line.
p. “I told the players, you play a team like this and make mistakes and they get magnified,” Laycock said. “You make the same mistake against somebody else more on our level and you can overcome it. Here it’s going to turn into a big play or touchdown.”
The Tribe’s only score was the result of the game’s longest and most impressive drive. Following an excellent punt by Virginia Tech, the College started from their own two yard line.
p. Over the next nine plays, junior quarterback Jake Phillips showed why the Tribe’s offense is ranked among the best in the FCS. Phillips carved up the Tech defense, completing long passes to redshirt-freshman receiver Cameron Dohse and senior tight end Drew Atchison en route to the Tech four-yard-line, where the drive stalled. Redshirt-freshman kicker Brian Pate entered and booted a 22-yard field goal to put the Tribe on the board.
p. “That was fun,” Phillips said. “We were backed up in their student section and it was loud and everything was going on. I was looking in each of the guy’s eyes and everybody was calm, everybody was collected. We had already settled into the game and everything. It was great to move right down the field. We converted a couple of third downs and everything. Converted some big plays and guys stepped up. It was a sense of accomplishment, but we know we could do that more… but it was good, it was something positive we can take from the game.”
p. Over the last few years the College has scheduled games against larger schools as a way to give the team’s players a chance to square off against stronger competition. Last season the Tribe the University of Maryland. The team battled Marshall University the year before. Next season the Tribe will travel to Raleigh to face another ACC foe in North Carolina State University. Despite having yet to record a win over these bigger programs, the team relishes the chance to compete on a higher level.
p. “I hope a lot of guys enjoyed it out there,” Phillips said. “We think of it as an opportunity, a chance to see where we stack up against these guys and an opportunity to play on that level. It was fun out there. We were out there moving the ball and making good plays and making things happen. It really was tough, but we also think of it as an opportunity.”
p. The College will look to draw on their experiences at Tech to help prepare them for a tough conference schedule. The Tribe will close with seven games against Colonial Athletic Association foes, beginning with Towson University Saturday at 1 p.m. at Zable Stadium.
p. “The big thing is going back and watching tape and watching film and getting better at things we need to improve on,” Phillips said.
p. “But the game’s probably going to slow down a little bit, it’s definitely going to slow down from this level. We’re already looking forward to it.”