The Tribe’s two game winning streak has led to a much more packed event at today’s football media luncheon at the Hospitality House.
Just as the College moved into the national rankings for the first time since 2005 (debuting at no. 23 in two polls), the team is receiving some inflated media attention. Several Richmond TV affiliates took a break from their UVA and University of Richmond coverage to journey down I-64. It’s understandable because this week the Tribe will attempt to win its third straight conference game, an impressive streak made possible by tough wins at both Delaware and New Hampshire.
This Saturday’s crowd will no doubt be much more hospitable as a young, but talented University of Rhode Island squad comes to town.
On to the news:
Laycock’s Delaware game assessment
Head Coach Jimmye Laycock assessed his team’s performance at Delaware, citing consistency and confidence on both sides of the ball as a major indicator of the progress of this team.
“We made some plays at some very critical times and we showed some signs of really playing well together as a football team,” Laycock said. “[Defensively] we got a lot of pressure on the quarterback and were really able to force the action without having to blitz.”
In particular he cited the team’s lengthy scoring drive to close the first half as evidence of the quality of football being played by the Tribe. On that drive, the College received the ball at their own 13-yard line, before marching 71 yards downfield and kicking a 33-yard field goal to take a 13-0 lead into halftime.
“That was the mark of a very confident football team,” Laycock said.
Scouting Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, a team which the Tribe has not faced since 2005, the Tribe will see a heavy passing attack. It’s almost a 180 from what the College saw from the single-minded rushing offense of Delaware.
“We’re going to be playing an opponent we haven’t seen for a while as they fell out of our rotation,” Laycock said. “Whereas before they were using the option, now they’ve made the transition to a spread football team.”
Expect the Rams to ride senior quarterback Derek Cassidy heavily on a Zable Stadium’s Field Turf, which is designed to aid passing offenses.
“They are a very good passing team and I’ve been very impressed with Derek Cassidy’s ability to throw the ball,” Laycock said.
The onus will then be on the College’s resurgent defensive line, which has already generated 16 sacks this season to get into the backfield to knock Cassidy out of rhythm.
“We don’t mind having that responsibility of getting after the quarterback,” junior defensive end C.J. Herbert said. “We look forward to that every week.”
Tribe in national polls
With the College moving into the rankings, reactions were mixed as to how that affects the squad’s mentality going forward. Laycock, never one to put much stock in the polls, nevertheless admitted that the program’s return to the top 25 offers some validation of the team’s upward course.
“I’ve had it both ways [being ranked and unranked], and it’s a lot better than the alternative,” he said.
Senior quarterback Jake Phillips was a bit more wary, however, raising the possibility that teams which had previously overlooked the Tribe could come out gunning for the College.
“I actually like being the underdog. I liked when nobody was ranking us and giving us a chance,” he said. “You always have that [underdog] mentality, which has helped us out. Playing in homecoming games the last two weeks – that was definitely a slap right there – so that was an edge we had in those two games.”
Rutter out two to three weeks
Finally, only one major piece of news on the injury front. But it is a big one.
Senior linebacker and co-captain Josh Rutter is out this week with a foot injury suffered on his crucial interception in the third quarter against Delaware.
“He’s going to be out for sure this week and then we’ll see how it goes after that,” Laycock said, before describing the injury as “not surgical” in nature.
Expect Rutter to miss two to three weeks with a likely return by the JMU game Nov. 15.