Midweek news as the College looks to extent their winning streak to five games this weekend against Northeastern University.
– Another big comeback this past Saturday as the Tribe ran their record to 6-2, 4-1 in the CAA. The conference mark outpaces their CAA win total from the past two seasons combined and puts the College in a position that nearly no one predicted before the season. With three games remaining, two wins will seal a playoff berth and likely a home
playoff game for a Tribe team that has played one of the strongest schedules in the nation. After this week against Northeastern, the College goes on the road to no. 1 James Madison University before finishing the regular season at home against no. 7 Richmond. None of their remaining games will be easy, but a very real possibility of playoff football exists, and the two rivalry games to end the season should be dramatic affairs.
– However, the going gets tougher this week as a very good Northeastern squad comes to Zable in a must-win game for the Tribe. The Huskies hold a very deceptive 2-7 overall record, with six of those seven losses coming against either FBS or ranked FCS schools.
“Their record does not indicate the team they have,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “They’ve been very close to winning so we have to be ready to play.”
Unfortunately for Laycock, the College will again be without the services of senior captains wide receiver Elliott Mack and linebacker Josh Rutter, as both are out for the second and third straight weeks respectively. There is still no timetable for the return of either
A traditional smash-mouth program, the Huskies will be a decent test for the Tribe, offering much stronger competition than the last two contests against Rhode Island and Towson.
“The thing I always remember about them is how physical a team they are,” Laycock said. “And that’s the way they are on both sides of the ball, extremely physical.”
As Northeastern possesses a varied offense, the Tribe defense will have its hands full this week in preparation.
“They’re the best 2-7 team I’ve ever heard of,” junior defensive tackle Sean Lissemore said. “They have a lot of different types of offensive schemes so we’re going to have to watch a lot of film.”
– Going back to this past week’s game against Towson, senior quarterback Jake Phillips was at less than 100% for the contest after contracting a stomach bug earlier in the week, impressive considering his three touchdown day. Laycock, however, was unsurpised.
“He’s the kind of guy that puts that stuff behind him and goes out and plays,” he said.
– After yet another first half in which the Tribe looked flat, mistake-prone, and out of sync, the College must come up with a remedy for their situation quickly. If the squad plays anything less than four quarters of solid football, they will get run out of the stadium by either James Madison or Richmond in their final two contests. Lissemore, however, had an interesting theory.
“I can’t really say what the reasoning is, because I’m just one person on the team, but maybe it’s possible that we are just feeling other teams out and reverting to our old ways last year, seeing if we’re better than a team, sort of a confidence issue,” he said. “But then we realize we’re better than these teams in the second half. But in these next three games we must play complete games to have a chance.”
– One of the most interesting snaps of the Towson game occurred midway through the third quarter when junior backup quarterback R.J. Archer lined up under center with Phillips split out wide to the right. On the play, Archer took a quarterback draw up the middle for four yards, yet the formation poses some intriguing possibilities. When asked about the play, Laycock remained typically coy.
“We just did it to keep R.J. happy,” he said. “I feel bad he’s sitting on the sidelines and not playing.”
Yet, the formation makes a lot of tactical sense as well. With Archer under center, the defense is forced to guard against a possible double pass to Phillips out wide. However, with Archer and Phillips both possessing great speed and rushing ability, the playbook against which the defense has to guard is virtually complete open, creating confusion. Look for the Tribe to possibly play both quarterbacks more often in the coming weeks, as the scenario against Towson, in garbage time, was the perfect opportunity to test a play for possible use against JMU or Richmond in a much bigger situation.
– Finally, perhaps the most dangerous element the Tribe has to guard against this weekend is overlooking Northeastern to next week’s matchup against no. 1 JMU. Junior defensive end Adrian Tracy is adamant that that scenario will not present itself.
“7-2 sounds a lot better than 6-3 and we’re going to let that resonate through the locker room this week,” he said. “JMU and Richmond are big games, but they won’t be if we lose this one. We’re going to go out and focus and do everything in our power to win.”