Football: Meet the Spartans

Two weeks into the College of William and Mary’s 2008 season, the Tribe sits at 1-1 after playing two radically different teams.

Week one opponent North Carolina State University was an athletic, deep Bowl Championship Series program with which the College did well to compete. Last week, the Tribe pounded an overmatched Virginia Military Institute squad.

Tomorrow, the College will get its first chance to match up against comparable talent when the Norfolk State University Spartans come to town.

“We want to come out and make a big statement to our future opponents,” senior linebacker Michael Pigram said.

Such a statement will not come easily. The Spartans went 8-3 a year ago and head into tomorrow’s matchup at 2-1 on the season. The squad received 23 votes in The Sporting News’ most recent Football Championship Series poll to the Tribe’s single tally.

“We haven’t played them in quite some time, but we know their reputation,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “We’ve looked at a little bit of tape and they’re a very good football team.”

Due to that unfamiliarity, the College will have its work cut out during this week’s game preparations.

“We just have to study film hard and study film long,” Pigram said. “It’s not one of our regular opponents who we play every year where we know what they run. They could come out with anything really.”

Norfolk State’s defensive scheme, however, is similar to VMI’s game plan, which the Tribe shredded for 52 points and 570 total yards. While the College will not find the Spartan defense as accommodating — Norfolk State is holding opponents to 279 yards of offense per game — that continuity could greatly aid the offense’s preparations.

“I think Norfolk State is a little more athletic than VMI, but seeing that same defensive front will help us get ready a little better than last week,” junior tight end Rob Varno said. “They’re athletic, they move pretty well and they put a lot of guys in the box daring you to come at them and throw over the top. They’ll come in here excited, so the big thing for us is to be prepared.”

The College could receive a lift tomorrow with the return of two key starters. Senior tailback DeBrian Holmes might make his 2008 debut this week after sitting out the first two games of the season with an injured knee, while junior safety Robert Livingston could also return from injury. Still, VMI’s physical, cut blocking offense and aggressive defense left the Tribe worn down in the wake of its victory.

“A whole lot of players are day to day and a lot of guys are going to be questionable this week,” Laycock said.

Despite that factor, the College will be fully prepared for the Spartans as it concludes non-conference play.

“It’s a good game that we don’t know a lot about, and we’re going to have a lot of things ready in preparation,” Laycock said.


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