Well, okay, time to be done with the Florida State thing. No use in looking back anymore, and the William and Mary Tribe come into Blacksburg on Saturday.
#12 (#14) Virginia Tech (1-0, 1-0 ACC) vs. William & Mary Tribe (1-0, 0-0 CAA (FCS))
Gametime: 2:00PM (Parking opens at 7AM).
Location: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
Broadcast: ACC Network and WatchESPN (subject to blackout/availability)
Radio: Sirius Channel 78 | XM Channel 202 | Internet Channel 974 | WBRW 105.3 FM (Blacksburg Local)
Both teams opened with wins for the 2018 football season. Everyone here knows about the FSU win for Tech; the Tribe opened with a 14-7 win over the Bucknell Bison. Their leading stat-getters (with YouTube Video by William and Mary Athletics):
Passing: Shon Mitchell 21/32, 267yards, 1TD, 1INT.
Rushing: Albert Funderburke, Jr. 17 attempts, 61 yards, 3.6 avg, 0TDs. Shon Mitchell 8 attempts, -20 yards, -2.5 avg, 1TD.
Receiving: DeVonte Dedmon 3 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD. Jack Armstrong 5 receptions, 50 yards. Nick Muse 5 receptions, 48 yards.
Notables: Mitchell should be a somewhat familiar name to Virginia Tech recruiting heads. A class of 2017 dual-threat quarterback from Oscar Smith, Mitchell was sniffed around by Virginia Tech as an athlete or wide receiver, but wished to continue playing quarterback, and therefore went to the smaller school. His issue was that he lacked the prototypical size of an FBS quarterback at only 5’-11”, 170lbs (he’s listed at 6’-0”, 180lbs now, which is actually pretty believable). He started three games last year, in which he was 22-58 for 140 yards and three interceptions. http://www.dailypress.com/sports/william-and-mary/dp-spt-william-and-mary-quarterback-decision-0825-story.html. Mitchell is a dual threat type in the same vein as Josh Jackson- moderately mobile with a decent arm and decent head on his shoulders. Look for Bud Foster to try and throw a relatively inexperienced starter plenty of exotic stuff.
Defensive/Special Teams statistics:
247 yards allowed, 2 turnovers forced. Leading defenders: Arman Jones 10 tackles, TFL. Isaiah Laster, 1 INT. 1 Fumble Forced/Recovered. Blocked Punt.
The Tribe pretty much stifled Bucknell all day, not even allowing them to record 300 offensive yards and holding them to 1 touchdown. Unfortunately, much like how Florida State’s 7-6 prior season can put a bit of a damper on expectations, Bucknell is coming off of a 5-6 year last year, and last time they played William and Mary they only scored 9 points (30-9 in 2017).
What to Watch For:
1. The Weather
Current forecasts have the weather in Blacksburg as pretty inhospitable this weekend. Expect chances of showers and thunderstorms all morning and afternoon, with an overall precipitation of about an tenth to a quarter of an inch, with more intermittent bursts with the storms rolling through. This would be the second Tech game played in inclement weather this year. Big thing about rain is that it obviously forces some amount of simplicity and controllability into the gameplan for the day. I’d imagine that, especially against a team of admittedly lower level, Coach Fuente would be more inclined to keep the ball on the ground and keep things small and uncomplicated. I’d wager that there’d be a limited amount of passing and a lot of DeShawn McClease and Steven Peoples, with Jalen Holston and Coleman Fox working in if things start getting out of hand.
2. The Passing Game (?)
Well, despite the win, the offense does have some work to do. And despite my previous thought that they could go quite conservatively, Coaches Fuente and Cornelsen could at least attempt to push the offense to take advantage of their talent superiority and fix some of the errors that plagued them during the Florida State game. Drops, failed blocking assignments, and mental mistakes crippled the team’s offensive potential, and so if they do decide to go to the air, it might be in a lot of short, choppy, tempo passes to try and get as many reps as possible for both Josh Jackson and his group of receivers. The other thing that I’d like to see is more tight ends in the passing game. Chris Cunningham put in a great effort last week in run blocking, which is one of the reasons they kept him in and he only recorded one catch. Dalton Keene recorded zero.
3. Defensive End Play
Well, after ripping through an undermanned line, it’d be nice to see that trend continue. Right now William and Mary is starting two new offensive linemen- left tackle Griffin Gilder and right tackle Colby Sorsdal. The latter is also a true freshman, which means while he might be talented, he’s also inexperienced. Look for Foster to try and get pressure again with just his front for and let his linebackers roam and get experience in coverage. William and Mary’s statistics at Bucknell show that Mitchell’s not shy about targeting multiple receivers (nine receivers logged a catch), so it would be advantageous to try and leverage talent and cover out.
Okay, be whatever it was that happened last weekend as it may, slippery conditions mean that things could get bad for twisted ankles, knees, and any and all other joint maladies from uneven and slick surfaces. The team needs to- as much as is humanly possible- avoid injury and give players that might be dinged or dented a chance to heal. While injury reports aren’t going to be issued in the ACC anymore, I’d assume that whatever precautions that could be taken with players such as Ricky Walker and Reggie Floyd will be. I’d also assume that there would be a good amount of rotation between players merely for depth purposes, leading to point 5…
5. Training opportunities
Despite the fact that the Hokies won last week, it doesn’t mean that they’re instantly going to shed their ‘young and inexperienced label’ instantly. So much of the two-deep is either freshmen or sophomores of some variety. It’s time to get them some experience. This is a lower-division team. Blow them out as much as is safety possible and get things to the second stringers. I want to see more out of the projected freshmen contributors- Dax Hollifield, Tre Turner, DJ Crossen, and Chamarri Conner all hopefully will get a chance to log valuable playing experience. And that’s just amongst the ‘second stringers’. We still need more experience for players like Tyjuan Garbutt, Bryce Watts, Caleb Farley, and Dylan Rivers.
Alright, Hokies, be ready to enjoy a game on Saturday. I personally hope that the quick turnaround on the game week won’t adversely affect the team, and it shouldn’t, but the last time we faced an FBS foe five days after a big season opener in a rainstorm, it didn’t end well. I don’t think this team is that team, and they’re coming off the elation of a victory rather than a hard-fought loss that was handed to them by rather poor officiating. But this team showed it has a lot of promise; time to go 1-0 again.
Go Hokies! Beat William and Mary!