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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

W&M football ready for challenge against CAA rival JMU

After a poor showing against Virginia Tech, William & Mary safety Corey Parker says the Tribe's defense is ready for James Madison University. (WYDaily photo/Courtesy W&M Athletics)
After a poor showing against Virginia Tech, William & Mary safety Corey Parker says the Tribe’s defense is ready for James Madison University. (WYDaily photo/Courtesy W&M Athletics)

William & Mary football coach Jimmye Laycock said when players are gone for four or five days, it’s easy to forget assignments. So when Hurricane Florence forced the cancellation of last week’s game against Elon, he had some apprehension.

At Tuesday’s weekly press conference, however, he said the players have been sharp since returning to campus Sunday.

“The retention of the players has been good. I was concerned about that,” Laycock said as the Tribe prepares for its CAA season opener at James Madison University on Saturday. “They’ve been very crisp in moving. So far, it looks like maybe they have a little more bounce in their step.”

That seems to have been an unexpected benefit of the time off.

“So far, I feel OK,” Laycock said about how the players have looked early in the week. “But we’ll see how it continues to play out.”

Center Nick Wimmer said even though the break was so early in the season, it came at a good time.

“I think the break is actually beneficial for us,” he said. “We had a lot of guys that were sore and banged up. Even though we’ve played only two games, we’ve been in here since August working, and a lot of guys are just sore and tired.”

The Tribe (1-1) will need everyone to be at their best against one of the hottest FCS teams in the country the past three years. JMU (2-1) has won a record 18 consecutive CAA games, with the last conference loss coming to W&M on Oct. 31, 2015. The Dukes won the FCS title in 2016 and lost in the championship game last year, going 14-1 overall each season. They are 30-3 since Mike Houston took over as coach before the 2016 season. JMU is coming off a 73-7 victory over Northeast Conference member Robert Morris on Sept. 13.

“I certainly respect what they’ve done,” Laycock said. “They’ve built themselves into a very, very strong football program. It didn’t certainly happen overnight. They’ve been pretty good for a while.”

The Tribe, who are looking for their first CAA win since beating Richmond 34-13 on Nov. 19, 2016 in its season finale, lost 62-17 at Virginia Tech on Sept. 8. However, Wimmer said the Tribe (0-8 in the CAA last season) were close to having some big plays on offense.

“A lot of the things we did, it came down to one play. It came down to one block that just didn’t get there,” he said.

One big play they did connect on was a 59-yard scoring play from quarterback Shon Mitchell to wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon, who finished with six catches for 96 yards.

“He gives you a lift as far as his explosiveness,” Laycock said of Dedmon, who is averaging 110.5 receiving yards a game. “If he continues like that, it certainly makes defenses make a decision to what they’re going to do.”

Mitchell was 14 for 24 for 208 yards and one score against the Hokies. He also combined with tight end Nick Muse on a 71-yard pass play. He was sacked just once and had no interceptions.

“He was in some tough situations. I thought he made pretty good decision,” Laycock said of his QB.

Corey Parker, a junior safety, said the defense’s showing against the Hokies wasn’t anything to write home about.

“It was not our best, not even close to our best, so we’ve really focused on getting back to the basics and what we were successful with last year,” he said.

The Dukes are led by quarterback Ben DiNucci, a junior who is averaging 131 passing yards and 61.7 rushing, tops on the team. Their top receiver is Riley Stapleton, a 6-foot-5, 229-pound junior. He has 17 catches for 167 yards and two scores this year.

“Very impressed with what I’ve seen (of DiNucci),” Laycock said. “He’s an elusive quarterback.”

With that extra bye week because of Florence, the Tribe are ready to put the Tech game behind them and concentrate on JMU, which is ranked second in the country in both FCS polls.

“They’ve definitely put together a very impressive string of seasons, but we are looking forward to the challenge, and we are ready to surprise some people,” Parker said.

Listen to the game

W&M will face James Madison at 3:30 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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