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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

W&M football will face challenge against Virginia Tech

William & Mary’s Isaiah Laster celebrates after his interception against Bucknell. (WYDaily photo/Courtesy Tribe Athletics)

In one of the conference rooms on the second floor of the Laycock Center at the College of William & Mary, a large whiteboard lists the weekly goals for the Tribe’s defense. Those include limiting the opposition to 20 points, eliminating big plays, winning the third-down battle and creating three turnovers or having a turnover margin of plus 1.

The defense reached all those goals, and a few more, in last Saturday’s 14-7 season-opening victory at Bucknell. Facing Virginia Tech, which moved up eight spots in The Associated Press poll to 12th after handling Florida State 24-3 on Monday night, the goals are the same, but they will be a lot harder to accomplish.

“Obviously, they are going to be a lot more physical than we played last week,” said Tribe defensive tackle Bill Murray.

Since ending last season on an eight-game losing streak to finish 2-9 (0-8 in the CAA), the Tribe have placed added emphasis on creating turnovers after forcing just 10 a year ago. In the quest for more wins, they know more interceptions and more fumbles are key. Against the Bison, who play in the Patriot League, the Tribe came away with one fumble and one interception.

“That was one area that we pretty much missed every single week (last year),” said Murray, who had five tackles and one pass break-up in the opener. “We didn’t help out our offense as much as we needed to.”

Against the Tribe, the Bison converted just 4 of 14 third downs and their longest plays covered 21 yards (one pass and one run). They had 257 yards of total offense.

“Defensively, we played very well,” said W&M coach Jimmye Laycock, who noted Murray, Will Kiely and Gavin Johnson all “played very well.”

Wide receiver Jack Armstrong, who had five receptions for 50 yards in Week 1, said the offense is appreciative of the defense.

“That defense is as good as you’re going to see in this conference,” he said. “… Those are some selfless guys on that side of the ball. It’s great to know that they’re there.”

The Hokies, who had 319 yards of offense (112 rushing and 207 passing) against the Seminoles, will be the toughest test all season for the Tribe. They forced five turnovers and had five sacks in their opener.

“I don’t think anybody, whether you’re a football coach or you’re not, would come away with anything other than being very impressed with the way Virginia Tech played,” Laycock said of the Hokies’ victory in Tallahassee, Fla. “They’re a very good football team, there’s no question.”

Virginia Tech got 77 yards rushing from running back Deshawn McClease, 86 yards and one TD (on four catches) from Eric Kumah, and quarterback Josh Jackson was 16 for 26 for 207 yards and two TDs. Defensively, Reggie Floyd led the way with nine tackles, and Caleb Farley had two interceptions.

The Tribe will be a decided underdog Saturday in Blacksburg. They have lost 11 consecutive games against the Hokies, the most recent a 34-9 loss at Lane Stadium in 2014. Overall, they are 18-41-4 in the series, with their most recent victory, a 27-15 win in Blacksburg, coming in 1976.

Still, the Tribe are looking forward to facing a Football Bowl Subdivision team. It will be the 13th consecutive season W&M has played a team from a Power 5 conference.

“It is exciting. I can’t lie,” Armstrong said. “Going into Lane Stadium in front of 60K with ‘Enter Sandman’ playing and all that stuff, it’s cool.”

Murray is looking forward to it also.

“I just love the challenge,” he said. “Honestly, I think we are all just up to the challenge for a competitive game this weekend.”

Listen to the game

W&M will face Virginia Tech at 2 p.m. Saturday. Listen to the game on 92.3 FM The Tide and 107.9 Bach FM.

Bryan DeVasher
Bryan DeVasher
Bryan DeVasher is the managing editor-digital of WYDaily. A resident of Hampton Roads for more than two decades, he has worked for news organizations in Virginia, Illinois, Missouri and Indiana. He most recently was a member of the public relations staff for Virginia State Police.

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