Football midweek update: Playoffs on the line

The Tribe’s entire 2008 season will come down to one game Saturday against no. 7 University of Richmond Spiders in a virtual play-in game for the FCS playoffs.

Here’s all the midweek news from the biggest week for the Tribe since 2004:

Forgetting JMU

The Tribe is not spending any time lingering over its 48-24 blowout loss at no. 1 JMU Saturday. The team didn’t spend Monday reviewing film from the game (as is customary each week), instead moving on to get a jump start for its preparations for Richmond.

“I don’t think you ever truly forget anything. You just learn from the mistakes that you made and correct those mistakes,” senior wideout Elliott Mack said. “We’re going to focus on Richmond this week and that’s pretty much all that matters.”

That attitude is probably a prudent one, as there is absolutely nothing to be proud of in the College’s performance against Madison.

“When you don’t block, don’t tackle, and don’t catch the football you don’t give yourself much of a chance,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “But it only counts as one loss, not two or three.”

The Tribe defense, in particular, was disappointed with its performance after getting run over by JMU quarterback Rodney Landers.

“We know we played bad. We’re harder on ourselves than anyone else,” junior safety David Caldwell said. “But with that said, knowing that you played bad last week and being presented with the opportunity to play such a good team and to be noticed on TV, we feel that this is an opportunity to get back on track as a defense.”

Mack likely to play

Mack will likely return to the field this weekend for the first time since the Rhode Island game one month ago, giving the Tribe offense a much needed boost.

“Each week you’re just itching to get back out there and sometimes you just can’t,” he said. “But I’ve done a lot of rehabbing with the training staff and I should be ready to play this week.”

A good thing too, as the College was thwarted by an avalanche of dropped passes against JMU. The normally sure-handed junior wideout D.J. McAulay was one of several culprits, who couldn’t come up with several key passes. The Tribe will need to be flawless in that area this weekend to take down the Spiders.

Rutter questionable for Saturday

Senior linebacker Josh Rutter, who has also missed the latter half of the season after spraining his foot against Towson could also play this weekend and will be in uniform, according to Mack. However, a Rutter return is much less likely, and while the senior will no doubt be in agony watching his team play without him on senior day, I don’t expect him to be able to return.

Historic rivalry has big implications

Finally, the College is geared up for a Richmond game with many more implications than the usual I-64 trophy. This is arguably the first meaningful game that anyone on the current Tribe squad has ever played in at the collegiate level. And there’s a postseason berth on the line.

“[A playoff berth] would mean a lot,” Mack said. “The last time I experienced it was my true freshman year. I wasn’t playing at that time, but it was so exciting just to be a part of it. To actually be able to play in the playoffs this year, would be great.”

Caldwell agreed.

“We all want to win,” he said. “In past years, we’ve been in this game going into Richmond and thinking ‘Let’s win against Richmond and then we’ll go home and have a good Thanksgiving.’ This year nobody wants to go home for Thanksgiving. We’ll be content to stay here and continue into the playoffs.”


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