After losing its season opener to Massachusetts Saturday and tumbling from No. 4 to No. 11 in the polls, William and Mary enters Saturday’s home opener against Virginia Military Institute in search of its first win of the young season.
Using history as a guide, the quest for the College’s first win of the season could not have come against a more favorable opponent than the Keydets. The College has not lost to VMI since 1985 — a 23-game win streak — and the Keydets haven’t won in Williamsburg since 1980, during Head Coach Jimmye Laycock’s first year in charge.
But, Tribe players and coaches know VMI has drastically improved since the last meeting between the two teams in 2008, and cannot be taken lightly.
“I think the attitude the team has taken in this week’s preparation is a whole lot different than it has been the last couple weeks,” senior wideout Cameron Dohse said. “We understand that we can’t afford to lose another game, so the whole approach we are taking this week is a little more urgent.”
In order for the Tribe to secure its first win, it must focus on strengthening a defensive attack that yielded 215 rushing yards, three touchdowns and 11 first downs to the UMass rushing attack last week.
The College defense surrendered nine points in the fourth quarter, allowing the Minutemen to come back and steal the win.
“It was frustrating,” senior linebacker Wes Steinman said. “We didn’t get off the field on third down, we didn’t really stop the run and we didn’t make enough plays when we needed to. They kept their drives going, which keeps us on the field and gets us tired.”
In the Keydets, the College will face a team that gained 304 yards passing using three different quarterbacks in a season opening 48-6 victory over Lock Haven. Starting quarterback Cameron Jones amassed 156 of those yards, while backup Adam Morgan threw for 120 yards.
“We’re looking at a different VMI team than the one we saw two years ago,” Laycock said. “Now, they’re not running the option like they did — they changed that — they’ve gone to a more pro-style attack. Last week, they rolled up a bunch of yardage, a bunch of points, played three quarterbacks and threw the ball around very well.”
Offensively, the College hopes senior quarterback Mike Callahan can continue to build off a strong outing against UMass, and become more comfortable running the offense. Callahan, a fifth-year senior, had a solid debut last week, throwing for 221 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while completing 21 of his 35 passes.
Callahan and the Tribe offense will be facing a challenging VMI defense that gave up just 78-yards rushing and 116 yards passing to the Bald Eagles last week.
“Defensively, I think they have about nine or 10 starters back from last year, and that’s always big,” Laycock said. “They play extremely hard defensively, and I’ve been very impressed. They aren’t making mistakes, they aren’t out of position, they completely dominated Lock Haven last week.”
Regardless of the Tribe’s struggles last week, the team remains confident that it can begin correcting its mistakes, and set out on the path to a successful season.
“You find out a lot about your team when you face a little adversity, and sometimes it is good for you,” Steinman said. “I have no doubt this team will bounce back and we will be just fine.”