WVU Game 1: William & Mary
EDITOR's NOTE: This is the first in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
This is designed as a tune-up game, an FCS opponent against whom the Mountaineers can trot out a new quarterback, a different cast of receivers and a reworked defense before really being tested against Oklahoma the following week and then the rest of the schedule. And if it is anything but a tune-up, well, that doesn't bode well for WVU.
Just as a caution, however, know that William & Mary was to be a sacrificial lamb in last year's opener at Maryland, too. And the Terps managed just one fourth-quarter touchdown. Yes, it was enough for a 7-6 win, but it was yet another instance of an FCS team providing much more than token competition. Remember, that was a W&M team that would go on to win just two games.
The Tribe will be better than that this season. The defense has a strong back end to test Dana Holgorsen's passing attack, despite losing fourth-round NFL draft pick B.W. Webb at cornerback. But the real intriguing aspect is on offense.
That's because in addition to returning three quarterbacks with starting experience last year - dual-threat Raphael Ortiz seems to be the best, although he's coming off shoulder surgery and missed the spring - veteran coach Jimmye Laycock also pulled off what he called his best recruiting job of the offseason by getting Kevin Rogers as his offensive coordinator.
That's right, Kevin Rogers, who is no stranger to either offenses or West Virginia. In a career that has seen him coach quarterbacks and/or coordinate offenses at, among other places, Navy, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and with the Minnesota Vikings, Rogers is back at his alma mater. He was on Laycock's first staff at William & Mary in 1980 and coached against WVU at almost all of those college stops.
Rogers will work with an offense that was abysmal last season, but at least has experience now. In addition to the three quarterbacks, the team returns the top two receivers in Tre McBride and Sean Ballard and three of the top four rushers.
Few coaches in the country at any level are as entrenched with their schools as is Laycock. He's been the head coach at William & Mary for 32 years, played there under both Marv Levy and Lou Holtz in the late 1960s and these days goes to work at the $11 million Jimmye Laycock Football Center. Laycock's teams have made the FCS playoffs nine times, but his two worst seasons (each 2-9) were his first in 1980 and last year ... WVU and William & Mary were regular opponents in the 1950s and '60s when both were in the Southern Conference. But while the games were often close, the Tribe's only non-loss was a 16-16 tie in 1967, WVU's last in the league. The teams played five more years before calling it quits. ... W&M is playing 12 games this season for the first time in 80 years. FCS schools are allowed to play 12 when the calendar has an extra Saturday between Labor Day weekend and Thanksgiving weekend, but the Tribe never elected to do so. In 2008, that might have cost the 7-4 team that season a spot in the playoffs.
Date Opponent 2012
Aug. 31 at West Virginia DNP
Sept. 7 Hampton DNP
Sept. 14 at Lafayette L 14-17
Sept. 21 Rhode Island* DNP
Sept. 28 Open
Oct. 5 at Villanova* DNP
Oct. 12 Penn W 34-28
Oct. 19 at Maine* L 10-24
Oct. 26 James Madison* L 26-27 (2 ot)
Nov. 2 New Hampshire* L 25-28
Nov. 9 at Delaware* L 21-51
Nov. 16 Towson* L 17-20
Nov. 23 at Richmond* L 14-21
* Colonial Athletic Association games
- Dave Hickman