When No. 13 William and Mary (1-1, 0-1) took the field against Virginia Military Institute last weekend, it was the continuation of a rivalry which spans 105 years.
This week the College takes on an opponent they have never faced before — Old Dominion.
The Monarchs (1-1), who restarted its football program last year after an 85-year hiatus, welcome the Tribe to Foreman Field Saturday in its first ever game against a CAA opponent. Old Dominion will join the CAA next season.
“I’m really not sure what to expect,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “When you play a team you haven’t played before, you don’t have a whole lot to gauge it on at all. We haven’t played many common opponents, so it’s really like an opening game. You have to go in and be prepared to do a lot of different things and adjust in a lot of different ways, and that’s how we are going to approach it.”
The Tribe will have to contend with ODU’s electric junior quarterback Thomas Demarco. Demarco, a preseason selection to the Walter Payton Award Watch List, is a dynamic, dual threat quarterback who passed for 1,921 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, while scrambling for 892 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground.
Demarco, who ranked second among all FCS quarterbacks in rushing last season, will take on a Tribe defense that is coming off an impressive but uneven, performance against VMI. The College recorded five interceptions against the Keydets, but its run defense yielded 113 yards on the ground.
Laycock said the Tribe will have to improve its rush defense against the dynamic Monarchs.
“They look very athletic; they did a good job, and they are certainly used to winning,” Laycock said. “They’ve got a good program going on, and we have to take care of ourselves, and continue to work on getting better.”
Junior tailback Jonathan Grimes enters Saturday still looking for his first breakout rushing performance of the year after rushing for 69 and 71 yards, respectively, in the Tribe’s first two games. Grimes has been held relatively silent as senior quarterback Mike Callahan has carried much of the offensive load so far this season.
Although Callahan will face a Monarch defense that has given up an average of 193 passing yards in its first two games, Laycock is confident that Callahan can adjust to ODU’s schemes as the game progresses.
“The thing I like the most about him is that when we comes off the field and we communicate, he sees things,” Laycock said. “He sees coverages, he sees blitzing techniques, he sees changes in fronts. He recognizes things that are going on out there, and therefore, he is able to handle things.”
Saturday’s game has already sold out, and Old Dominion is planning a “white out” to welcome the Tribe to Norfolk.
“I don’t think that there is any question that it will draw fans and create interest, and pretty soon, they will be in the league, so we will be playing them again soon. Depending on how the league ends up scheduling things, I would assume that this will be a yearly game.”