New Hampshire @ William & Mary (W&M leads series 12-2)
Saturday, October 15 – 12pm
Walter J. Zable Stadium
Setting the Scene: This weekend’s matchup features two Payton Award Finalists in William & Mary running back Jonathan Grimes and New Hampshire quarterback Kevin Decker. Additionally, these two teams are led by two of the most respected coaches in the CAA, UNH Head Coach Sean McDonnell and Chief of the Tribe Jimmye Laycock.
Since taking the reigns of UNH’s football program, Coach Laycock’s Tribe is the only team Sean McDonnell and the Wildcats have yet to beat. Asked to comment on his 0-8 record against Laycock, McDonnell explained with a chuckle – “I can’t beat him [Laycock] in golf right now for Christ sakes. The one thing I know is that William & Mary has a really good football team. They’ve been that way since I got back in the league in ’91. He [Laycock] does a helluva job coaching them.”
McDonnell has done a helluva job himself. Over the last seven seasons, UNH has posted a combined record of 65-25, been ranked in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 for a CAA-leading 97 consecutive weeks, and earned seven consecutive berths in the FCS Championship playoffs, good for the longest active streak in the country.
Absent in all that success is a victory against the boys in Green & Gold. Coach Laycock and the Tribe will look to earn their ninth straight victory against McDonnell and the ‘Cats, while UNH’s high-powered offense hopes to rule the day.
The Matchup: UNH Wildcats (4-1, 2-0) vs. The College of William & Mary Tribe (3-3, 1-2)
The Recent History: Last year, the Tribe traveled to Cowell Stadium in Durham ranked fourth in the country, but banged up at the quarterback position. The eighth-ranked Wildcats were riding a school-record 12-game regular season winning streak, and hoping to snap their losing streak against the Tribe. In a defensive struggle, William & Mary’s defense held UNH to 275 total yards and a lone field goal as the Tribe clawed their way to a 13-3 victory.
The Skinny: This Saturday’s matchup pits a struggling William & Mary team facing a crossroads in this young season against a New Hampshire team that has catapulted itself to the top of the CAA standings on the back of an offensive juggernaut led by their quarterback and Payton Award Candidate Kevin Decker.
These two teams are absolute contrasts; the Wildcats lead the league in scoring and total offense, while the Tribe ranks last in both. On the defensive side of the football, the Tribe’s Gang Green defense is first in scoring defense and total defense, while UNH’s defensive unit finds itself in the cellar in both categories. Will New Hampshire’s high-flying offense rule the day, or will the Tribe mimic their performance against the Wildcats last season and ride their stout defense to a victory?
The Key Match-up: The classic paradox of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object comes to fruition Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg, as New Hampshire’s explosive offense roars into town to face William & Mary’s Gang Green defense.
The ‘Cats boast the CAA’s most potent offensive attack, ranking first in scoring (40.2 pts/gm), first in passing (300.4 yds/gm), and first in total offense (452 yds/gm). This offensive juggernaut is led by Payton Award finalist Kevin Decker who has completed 71.3% of his passes on his way to throwing for 1,478 yards and 13 touchdowns, while also rushing for 203 yards and leading UNH with six touchdowns on the ground.
Speaking on Decker and the UNH offense, Coach Laycock was full of praise, saying – “Offensively, their great quarterback is playing very, very, very well. They’re doing all kinds of stuff. They make you defend the whole field.”
An impressed Laycock continued to discuss UNH, “They’ve got a lot of weapons. They run it as well as throw it . . . They’re a very, very diverse offense. They’re putting up the points . . . so it’s going to be a big challenge for us on Saturday.”
Conversely, William & Mary’s ferocious defense leads the CAA in total defense (307.5 yds/gm) and pass defense (155.7 yds/gm), while ranking third in scoring defense (19 pts/gm). Led by a front seven that UNH Coach Sean McDonnell called “probably the best front we’ve played [in the FBS].”
Gang Green hopes to pressure Decker with outstanding linebacker Jabrel “Claymore” Mines and bookends Marcus Hyde and George “The Animal” Beerhalter. McDonnell also expressed praise for Tribe cornerback B.W. Webb, who he said was “the best cover corner in the league.”
Whoever prevails in this match-up between the Wildcats’ point-per-minute offense and the Tribe’s stout defense will walk out of Zable Stadium with a victory.
The Wild Cards: As it has been throughout the first six contests, the Tribes’ biggest unknown is at the quarterback position. With Mike Graham’s illness still keeping him out of uniform, the Tribe hopes to put together a viable offensive game plan with either Mike Paulus, Brent Caprio or Raphael Ortiz.
Of the quarterback situation, Laycock said that, “We’re going to look at ‘em all . . . We’ll go through the tape with them and talk to ‘em and see what we got and go from there . . . We’re going to look at it day-to-day and see where it goes.”
Whoever lines up behind center will need to limit turnovers and get the ball to tight end Alex Gottlieb in the middle of the field to open up running lanes for Jonathan Grimes and Keith McBride.
For New Hampshire, their defense will look to build upon their strongest effort of the season last weekend against Villanova and seek to keep this struggling Tribe offense in its stunted position.
The Wildcats’ defense is last in the CAA in total defense and pass defense, giving up an eye-popping 476 total yds/gm with 319 of those surrendered through the air. UNH also ranks last in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 38.2 points per contest.
Under normal circumstances, those numbers would be a recipe for disaster against a Jimmye Laycock-coached offense. However, with the inconsistency from the quarterback position, The College hopes to break the 21-point mark for only the second time this season.
CAAZone.com editor Ed Sheahin will be on the sidelines during the game taking photos for the web site and tweeting reports. Follow Ed on twitter @NFLSkins to receive updates throughout the game.