Usually, when an FCS team visits a power five school, the result is assumed. The big school gets a chance to work on things against a live opponent, and the fans have an opportunity to relax, enjoy the afternoon, and in the case of Virginia, sing the Good Ole Song numerous times. However, this isn't your everyday FCS opponent. William and Mary is extremely well coached and very capable of springing the upset. Look no further than when the Tribe came to Scott Stadium in 2009 and handed the Hoos a 26-14 loss. So, what do the Hoos have to do to avoid the upset this year?
1) Be the better team - This sounds extremely trivial, however, in 2009 the Hoos turned the ball over seven times. I don't care if you are playing Charlottesville High School. If you turn the ball over seven times, you aren't likely going to win. Beyond that, when the Hoos needed a crucial short yardage gain, they lined up in some crazy spread formation and tried some fancy-pants run around the edge that ultimately got nowhere. When you are Virginia, and you are playing William and Mary, punch them in the mouth (for lack of better phrase). Use your size, use your athleticism, use your depth. Ultimately though, if Virginia is sound, is careful with the football, and doesn't kill themselves with penalties, they should be just fine.
2) Avoid big plays - So far in this young season, the big play has doomed the Virginia secondary. Whether they have been caused by a breakdown in coverage or an overaggressive defensive front, the Hoos have given up touchdown passes of 30, 59, and 39 yards. Nothing keeps a team in a game longer than the ability to score quickly, and WIlliam and Mary will likely look to do just that in an attempt to make this an interesting. The Tribe are very capable of doing so as well having scored on passing touchdowns of 58 and 52 yards in their opener against Lafayette. With an opportunity to work on keeping things tight in coverage, look for the Hoos defensive backs to really lock down the Tribe receivers.
3) Keep the foot on the gas - Last week against Notre Dame, Virginia found success when the game-plan allowed Matt Johns to air it out. He had one of his best game as a Hoo going 26 of 38 for 289 yards and two TD passes. Johns needs to be able to come close to that the rest of the season if the Hoos want to play in the postseason, and a game against William and Mary is the perfect time to set that tone. Hopefully he will keep the rhythm going with wide receiver Canaan Severin. Severin exploded for 153 yards on 11 catches on his way to ACC Receiver of the Week honors. That duo should provide enough firepower (with an occasional bit of help from their friends) to keep the Cavaliers competitive the rest of the year. Saturday provides ample opportunity to keep that momentum rolling.
So we will see you at Scott on Saturday in what should be the game that gets the Hoos that all-important first win.