Midweek football news as the no. 5 Tribe prepares to face no. 4 Richmond on Saturday
When it comes to the Tribe’s injury prognosis, not much has changed from last week.
Once again, sophomore left guard Chris Sutton’s status for this Saturday is questionable. After sustaining a leg injury late in the Towson game, Sutton sat out last week’s contest against New Hampshire.
“I dont know yet whether [Sutton] will be back or not,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “There is a possibility that he could be back, but we will know later in the week.”
Redshirt freshman Robbie Gumbita filled in for Sutton against New Hampshire and could possibly do the same against Richmond.
While Sutton’s status remains questionable, senior wideout D.J. McAulay will almsot certainly take the field against the Spiders. McAulay, who returned to action against New Hampshire after being sidelined for two straight weeks due to a lingering shoulder injury, is getting back to full health.
“He was pretty good Saturday, and then he took a shot that kind of knocked the wind out of him and couldn’t quite get his breath back,” Laycock said. “But he’s okay and seems pretty good. He practiced last night, and seems okay.”
On Saturday, the College pulled out an exciting 20-17 victory in one of its tightest contests of the season against then-no.7 New Hampshire.
Although Laycock was impressed with the performance of his offensive and defensive units, he was taken aback by the Tribe’s mental fortitude.
“The thing that really stood out was how hard we played on both sides of the ball throughout the game,” Laycock said. “Our execution could have been better, but I think our players really offset that with the effort and the relentlessness of playing down after down, and play after play.”
Laycock was impressed with how the College refused to let several miscues affect their focus. In particular, he praised the fact that the team refused to falter when New Hampshire scored on a key 4th down to even the score at 17 in the latter stages of the game.
With the victory, the College raised their record to 6-1 in the CAA and 9-1 overall, equalling its best start since 1947.
This Saturday, the no. 5 Tribe (9-1, 6-1 CAA) will close out the regular season on the road against no. 4 Richmond (9-1, 6-1 CAA) in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season. Last year, the Spiders sunk William and Mary’s playoff hopes with a 37-yard field goal in overtime.
In their previous 118 meetings, the Spiders and Tribe have faced each other under almost every circumstance imaginable, but none quite like this. The latest installment sees both teams coming in with national rankings, identical records and aspirations of winning a CAA regular season title. Additionally, the victor will most likely earn home field advantage in the playoffs. A Tribe victory would also provide the College with 10 regular season victories, a feat that has never been achieved in the 116-year history of the program.
As if the game lacked intensity, the pain of last year’s heartbreaking loss to the Spiders still runs deep for many Tribe players and coaches.
“It has definitely been used as motivation, especially in the offseason,” senior defensive end Adrian Tracy said. “[That field goal] was going through my mind and how close we were to making the playoffs.”
Much like New Hampshire, this week’s contest against Richmond will provide the Tribe with another battle-tested, playoff-caliber opponent.
“One thing that strikes me when looking at their roster is the experience that they have,” Laycock said. “They probably have 14 or 15 fifth-year seniors in their starting group. And this is a team that won the national championship last year, so they have been in a lot of tough games, they know how to play and they know how to handle adversity.”
That being said, the Tribe will look to channel their newfound sense of focus and mental stability into a victorious effort.
“This is the biggest game of the year,” sophomore tailback Johnathan Grimes said. “It’s a huge game, [Richmond] are our rivals, and there is a lot weighing on this game.”
While Saturday’s victory made the Tribe’s playoff picture clearer, it is by no means solid. The College’s playoff seeding depends on this weekend’s matchup with Richmond, as well as how other top teams fare in the final week of the regular season. With a win, the Tribe would clinch at least a share of the CAA, almost guaranteeing a home playoff game. Accordingly, the athletic department has already begun selling NCAA playoff tickets on its website, www.tribeathletics.com.