Twenty-eight years ago, College of William and Mary Head Coach Jimmye Laycock stood on the sidelines of North Carolina State University’s Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. The afternoon marked his first contest as Tribe head coach, a regime that began poorly as N.C. State rolled to a commanding 42-0 victory.
Tomorrow Laycock will return to that same sideline as the owner of 182 career victories, 18 winning seasons and nine playoff appearances.
There, a veteran Tribe team with experience playing in hostile road environments could give Laycock a good chance at pulling a marquee upset.
However, the Tribe will journey to Raleigh at less than full strength. The squad’s top two running backs, senior DeBrian Holmes and sophomore Courtland Marriner, are both set to miss tomorrow’s opener with injuries, forcing Laycock and offensive coordinator Zbig Kepa to alter the game plan.
“One of the things we wanted to do this year was to get more speed and more playmakers on the field and to get the ball to them,” Laycock said. “[Holmes and Marriner] are two of our five playmakers, so that may have to change some things.”
Last week, the Wolfpack were blasted 34-0 in their season opener at the University of South Carolina. That result leaves a hungry College squad, aided by the return of 18 of 22 starters, with visions of a big win to jumpstart their 2008 campaign.
“It’s a big challenge, a big opportunity for our players to go and be in that environment,” Laycock said. “We look forward to the opportunity to go and see what we can do against one of the top teams in the ACC.”
Defensively, the Tribe will be charged with slowing down the Wolfpack backfield duo of Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene. While Eugene is questionable for tomorrow’s contest with an ankle injury, he was N.C. State’s leading rusher in 2007. Brown went over the 100-yard mark against South Carolina.
Regardless of the result, the opportunity to compete against a top-level opponent will provide Laycock and his coaching staff with an excellent chance to assess their squad before the start of CAA action.
“You really don’t know what you have until you actually play a game,” Laycock said. “It helps out our football team to compete on that level, and it helps us to identify the areas that may need more work.”
While that aspect is certainly beneficial, an eager Tribe squad still feels that it can steal a shocking upset from a beleaguered major program — something with which Laycock is familiar.
Over the course of his 28 years at the College, Laycock’s squads have shown a repeated willingness to compete against top-level Football Bowl Subdivision talent. For 10 straight years, the College has faced schools from the FBS, the longest current streak in the CAA. Under Laycock, the Tribe has posted upset wins against the University of Virginia in 1986, the United States Naval Academy in 1987 and 1991, and Temple University in 1998.
Tomorrow offers the College another chance at a win against an ACC opponent.
“I think [experience] definitely helps; we’ve got maturity on our team and I think I have to feel confident against N.C. State,” senior cornerback Derek Cox said. “The goal is always to win. We’ll treat them like every other opponent.”