After nearly three months, 10 games, and an offseason of grueling practices, the College of William and Mary’s 2008 season comes down to a single game.
Tomorrow, 60 minutes of football against no. 7 University of Richmond will define the Tribe’s season, with a likely playoff berth and the annually contested I-64 trophy at stake for the winner.
“We all want to win,” junior safety David Caldwell said. “In past years, we’ve been in this game going into Richmond and thinking: ‘let’s win against Richmond, and then we’ll go home and have a good Thanksgiving.’ This year nobody wants to go home for Thanksgiving.”
The College has not qualified for the playoffs since 2004, and a return will not come easy. Richmond has an 8-3 record on the year, having lost only to top-5 FCS teams Villanova University and James Madison University and ACC opponent University of Virginia. The Spiders couple a fast and physical CAA-leading defense, powered by standout defensive ends Sherman Logan and Lawrence Sidbury, Jr., with a potent rushing attack, allowing them to control the football and outmuscle opponents.
“It’s a power running game with good misdirection,” Tribe Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “They return a lot of players from last year, so they are extremely experienced.”
With three losses each, both Richmond and the College most likely need a win tomorrow to make the playoffs. For a Tribe program suffering from three straight losing seasons, the squad is determined to score the upset victory.
“[The playoffs] would mean a lot,” senior wide receiver Elliott Mack said. “The last time I experienced it was my true freshman year. I wasn’t playing at that time, but it was so exciting just to be a part of it. To actually play in the playoffs this year would be great.”
That factor, combined with the usual intensity of the College’s rivalry with Richmond, makes this weekend’s contest one of the program’s biggest games in years.
“We know a lot of Richmond players, and every year the I-64 cup is on the line, so when you have the rivalry and you have the playoff implications, it’s a lot,” Mack said.
After posting a 4-7 mark a year ago, the College has enjoyed a solid turnaround this season.
“We’re in a position right now where if you had said last year, ‘would you take going into the Richmond game
at 7-3 with the opportunity for the playoffs on the line’, you might have been able to twist my arm into taking that,” Laycock said. “Given [that the Tribe is] a team that was picked as low as we were during the preseason and with no returning stars according to the preseason all-conference teams, I think our guys have accomplished a lot.”
Despite the improvement, the team believes it is not quite finished.
“I’ve never really played in a significant game [at any level],” Caldwell said. “All you want to do in sports is to put yourself in a position to control yourself, and we couldn’t ask to be in a better position right now. We all knew that this was the year that we had the opportunity to do something special with the players on this team, and we want to take full advantage of it.”