Heading into Saturday’s football game against Colgate, there was one question on the minds of many in Williamsburg: was the optimism about William and Mary premature or misplaced?
But after a thorough 38-10 beatdown of the Raiders, there’s a new thought throughout the city: is the Tribe actually good?
Last season, the Raiders won the Patriot League and advanced to the quarterfinals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs, knocking off James Madison on its way. This year, the Raiders were ranked No. 13 in the Football Championship Subdivision preseason top-25 and were picked to win the Patriot League. For the Tribe, this was a measuring stick game to see where it matches up with a perennially solid team.
“We wanted to, kind of, compare apples to apples and see where we could compare against a good FCS program,” head coach Mike London said after the game.
It certainly looks like the Tribe measured up, and then some.
Heading into the season, there was reason to think that the team would be about as good as last year, if not a smidge better. New energy, a new coach, and a new scheme were all reasons to think that the Tribe would be, at the very least, more interesting.
A season-opening win against a somewhat overmatched foe in Lafayette sparked thoughts that the Tribe might be better than anticipated, based on the performance of freshman quarterback Hollis Mathis and a veteran defense. The loss to Virginia did nearly nothing to bury those ideas.
But nobody was expecting a cakewalk Saturday. This was a team that shut out the Tribe 23-0 in an ugly game. And, while the Raiders came the eight-and-a-half hours from upstate New York without a win, its two losses were to a Villanova team that is now ranked and Air Force, a Football Bowl Subdivision school. The Raiders were still receiving a considerable number of votes in the top-25 poll, although they weren’t ranked.
Then, the game happened, and it was an absolute romp. The Tribe dominated all three phases of the game, more than doubling up the Raiders in total offense, forcing two interceptions and returning a kickoff for a touchdown at a crucial moment. It looked the part of a good team.
Is it a good team?
That’s a tough question to answer at this point. The Tribe is certainly better than it has been since at least 2016. But, it may be tough to tell just how good of a football team it is this season, if only for its gantlet of a schedule.
The Colonial Athletic Association is, by far, the best conference in the FCS. It is the Southeastern Conference of this division. But, even by those standards, the league schedule that the Tribe faces is just ridiculously hard. Of the College’s seven CAA games, five are against teams currently ranked in the top-25, including No. 2 James Madison, No. 5 Towson, No. 12 Maine, No. 18 Villanova and No. 22 Elon.
A single win against any of these teams would signal progress. But string a couple together, and the mood around this squad will begin to sound a lot like Jim Mora.