Before bringing head coach Jimmye Laycock to the podium at William and Mary football’s weekly media luncheon, and before Laycock and his players discussed their 24-7 win over Virginia Military Institute or their upcoming home opener against New Haven, the athletic department had a point of information for the attending members of the media: The Tribe’s second home game, two Saturdays from now against James Madison University, had already sold out.
But while everyone else may already have their sights set on Sept. 29, when the two CAA heavyweights will duke it out in a packed Zable Stadium, the Tribe itself is keeping a laser-like focus on its matchup with New Haven, a Division II team, in what could be labeled a potential “trap game.”
“Our goal is to go undefeated for the rest of the season, so we’re not overlooking anyone,” junior linebacker Jabrel Mines said. “We’re going to study film like we studied for UVa. We’re going to look at every run, every pass, and just run to the ball, make tackles and cause turnovers.”
It will be the first time the two schools meet, and, according to Laycock, it wasn’t deliberate.
“It was a situation where we had come up short on a game and we were tying to find somebody,” Laycock said. “One thing led to another and this is what we got.”
It would be easy to dismiss the game as a laugher-in-waiting, given that the Tribe is ranked fifth in the nation of Division I FCS teams, and New Haven is a Division II program, but nobody seems to have told the College.
“Looking at them on tape, they’re very athletic, they have good, sound schemes on both sides of the ball and they play very hard,” Laycock said. “It’s a solid team from what I see on film.”
The Chargers have also been successful, albeit in a lower division, in recent years, going 8-2 in 2010. The team is returning 21 of 22 starters from that 2010 season that saw the Chargers post a 5-0 record in road games, and is coming off two season-opening wins, the first against a Westchester team that fell by just 11 to the Tribe’s CAA-rival Delaware, and the second a 50-14 beatdown of St. Augustine.
And New Haven, like the Tribe, starts a quarterback who once played for a Division I FBS team. Ryan Osiecki, the junior signal-caller for the Chargers, began his career with Louisville before transferring to New Haven for his freshman season.
The Chargers’ stout rush offense (which has averaged more than 168 yards in its two games) will look to exploit the Tribe’s defense, a unit that has allowed 162.5 yards in its two contests with Virginia and VMI. And while the Tribe’s front four and linebackers should have a size advantage over New Haven’s offensive line, Mines understands that size isn’t everything.
“A lot of times when you get smaller linemen they pull a lot, they’re quick, they can cut you,” Mines said. “So it’s not so much a disadvantage, and with their experience and their offense being an unfamiliar team, you could say they almost have the advantage in that aspect.”
As for the College’s offense, a group that went MIA in the opener at Virginia, Laycock said the coaches have been trimming and simplifying the game plan, looking to augment the improvement of senior quarterback Mike Paulus, who played much better — going 11 of 20 for 141 yards —against the smaller, slower VMI defense than against ACC-rival UVa, when he went just five of 22 for 35 yards.
“Mike is still getting back in the routine of playing quarterback,” Laycock said. “The shoulder surgery and the missing spring practice and all that time off, there’s a lot of re-learning, and he’s working very, very hard.”
Offense, defense and special teams, though, acknowledge the unique challenge a game like the presents,
followed so closely by a marquee matchup between two of the nation’s premier programs.
“I don’t think that’s going to have an effect on us,” junior offensive lineman Mike Salazar said. “We’re extremely focused on what we have to get done. This week is the most important game of the season for us.”