Midweek news as the Tribe prepares to travel to Northeastern on Saturday.
After suffering its first loss of the season, it seems that the Tribe has been infected with a sense of overwhelming optimism. In defeat, the Tribe dominated Villanova in almost every statistical category, including total yards, first downs, third down conversion percentage and time of possession.
Despite seeing the outcome of the game as a negative, the Tribe has decided to take several positives out of the loss. Head Coach Jimmye Laycock and his players believe that their gameplan was executed almost flawlessly except for a few mistakes that ended up being the difference.
“We had several turnovers that just happened at the wrong time and we had a couple of penalties that came very much at the wrong time,” Laycock said. “Other than that, I thought we played pretty well.”
Additionally, Tribe fans must realize that although the College’s record now contains its first blemish, the team managed to statistically dominate the No. 2 team in the nation on the road, which is no small feat. If the team could have eliminated a few costly mistakes, they very well might have come away with a victory.
“I feel like we lost, but we weren’t beaten,” senior center C.J. Muse said.
For the most part, the Tribe has staved off the injury bug so far, with the exception of the wide receiving corps.
Junior wideout Cameron Dohse was the latest victim, suffering a concussion during the Villanova game. His prognosis for Saturday is currently uncertain. Laycock is worried about the lingering effects of the concussion, and might hold him out against Northeastern.
Dohse’s injury comes a week after senior wide receiver D.J. McAulay sat out of practice all of last week due to a sore leg. McAulay injured tweaked his leg during practice and his status for the Villanova game was in jeopardy all the way up until pregame warm ups. Laycock is confident in McAulay’s abilities, and claims that he will practice this week.
The Tribe desperately needs for its wide receivers to remain healthy, especially with its depth chart already thin with Ryan Moody lost for the season.
While amassing a 4-1 record and its best start since 2004, the Tribe has been aided by spectacular defensive performances. The College’s defense currently ranks second in the CAA, giving up an average of just 258.8 yards per game. While senior strong safety David Caldwell and redshirt freshman B.W. Webb have shone in the secondary, the bulk of the Tribe’s defensive successes lie with the defensive line.
Senior defensive ends Adrian Tracy and Sean Lissemore anchor a unit that has recorded 17 sacks, averaging a whopping 3.4 per game. Additionally, the Tribe has the league’s best run defense, yielding a measly 70 yards per game on the ground. The College looks to keep its defensive bravado intact with several high powered offenses still left on the schedule.
After a stellar 2008 season which yielded an All-CAA selection and honorable mention All-American honors, senior place kicker Brian Pate entered the 2009 campaign with exceptionally high expectations. But after five games, Pate is currently 11 for 18 on field goals, a far cry from his 81 percent field goal conversion rate a year ago.
After missing several kicks in the early stages of the season, Pate drilled all three of his attempts against Villanova, marking the first time he has converted all of his attempts in a game this season.
“It feels huge, just to get that extra confidence. I have always known that I can make those kicks, and they just didn’t fall. My confidence didn’t waver, but I was a little confused,” he said.
Pate traces his turnaround to a 29-yard field goal he made against Delaware, in which Laycock entrusted his kicker to slow down, and make the kick.
Although his conversion rate hasn’t been the best, Pate has attempted 18 field goals, the most of any kicker in FCS football. Seven of those attempts came against U.Va.
Even though the Tribe currently holds a 4-1 record, Pate sees room for personal improvement.
“To be honest, every game so far has been bittersweet for me. We have won, but personally, I didn’t take care of my business,” he said. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time, you can’t get down about it because it will only hurt you for the next game.”
The College will attempt to regain its momentum when it visits Northeastern (0-5, 0-2 CAA) this weekend in Brookline, Mass. Although they are currently winless, the Tribe refuses to overlook the Huskies.
Although the Tribe holds a 12-2 series advantage over the Huskies, Northeastern always brings their best game against the College.
“Northeastern has a history of sticking around with us,” Muse said. “Their record doesn’t show it, but they play really physical and really hard. As far as we are concerned, they are 5-0, and we are trying to get a big win.”
The Tribe makes its first trip to Brookline since squeaking out a 44-41 win in 2005. A victory would ensure its fourth straight victory over a CAA North opponent. The College swept all three CAA North games last year.
The College enters the game after falling from no. 5 to no. 8 in the national rankings after losing to Villanova. This week, the team plans to put forth its best effort, and start the climb back up the rankings.
“That’s one of the advantages of losing a game, if there is any, it gives you an opportunity to refocus on the basics, and that’s what we will do,” Laycock said.
Homecoming a sellout
Due in part to its strong start, the College has managed to record its second straight sellout game of the 2009 season. The Athletic Department announced on Tuesday that the Tribe’s Oct. 24 Homecoming showdown with James Madison has been declared a sellout.
Athletic director Terry Driscoll sent an email to students announcing that due to the high demand, student tickets will be distributed differently than before. Students must now pick up their tickets at special designated locations before Oct. 15. Any tickets not claimed after Oct. 15 will go on sale to the public.
The game kicks off at noon and will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet.