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Virginia Football Opponent Preview: William & Mary

After only playing three games in the spring, the Tribe are ready to take the field in the fall.

NCAA Football: William & Mary at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia football season gets underway on September 4th as the Cavaliers welcome familiar foe William & Mary to Charlottesville. As part of our preparation for the 2021 season, we’ll be taking a look at each Virginia opponent. This will be another return to Scott Stadium for former UVA head coach Mike London and former QB Matt Johns, who is now the quarterbacks coach for the squad. London is starting his third season in Williamsburg and has a record of 6-9 through his first two years.

2020 Recap

Record: 1-2
Postseason: none

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, William & Mary did not have a fall season in 2020. They played spring ball in 2021, but they were only able to get in three games amid more postponements and cancellations. All three games were played within the confines of Virginia as they traveled to Richmond and hosted James Madison and Elon.

The Tribe’s only win came over Elon, 31-10.

Running back Malachi Imoh led the team in rushing with 148 yards and three touchdowns, and QB Hollis Mathis threw for 379 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Mathis also added 92 yards rushing with one touchdown. Defensively, W&M gave up 322 yards per game, led by LB Brayden Staib with 17 tackles. As a defense, the Tribe had three sacks.

2021 Preview

Key Returners: QB Hollis Mathis, RB Malachi Imoh, LB Brayden Staib, WR Cole Blackman, TE Anthony Mague, ILB Alex Washington
Key Departures: none
Key New Faces: CB Tate Haynes (Boston College)

William & Mary was picked to finish No. 11 (out of 12) in the CAA preseason poll and had just one player — punt returner Bronson Yoder on special teams — named to the All-Conference team. They return Mathis at quarterback, Imoh in the backfield, and leading receiver Cole Blackman (12 receptions, 194 yards, one touchdown). If you recognize the name Cole Blackman, he transferred from Virginia to Illinois State after the 2019 season.

Much like Virginia, William & Mary returns a lot of players using their extra year of eligibility awarded as part of the pandemic. They bring back the entire offensive line, a lot of pieces on defense, and the aforementioned leading playmakers at each offensive “skill” position.

“I feel good about the talent of this team, about the depth of this team, about seniority, about the leadership,” London told the Virginian-Pilot near the end of July. “So, there’s a lot of positive things coming out of the spring into the summer and now getting ready to go into the fall.”

Mathis’s health is a big question heading into the season as he sustained an injury in the spring that led to him missing W&M’s final game of the season. They did bring in two QB transfers — including DC native Kevin Doyle from the University of Arizona — so there will be options for the season opener in C’ville if Mathis is not ready to take the field.

Series History

All-time Record vs. W&M: 30-6-1
Last meeting: 2019, Virginia win 52-17

Virginia has played the Tribe in alternating years since 2015, picking up wins in 2015, 2017, and 2019. Last time out, the Cavaliers dominated with a 52-17 victory in Charlottesville. William & Mary threw only 13 passes in the loss, connecting on five and throwing one interception. Virginia held them under 200 total yards of offense while racking up 511 yards of total offense.

In that game, Bryce Perkins threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 68 yards on the ground, while current QB Brennan Armstrong went for 103 yards on 9-for-10 passing. The one incompletion, however, was an interception. RB Mike Hollins barreled for two touchdowns, and he’s expected to be a factor in the backfield for the Hoos this season after opting out last year amid the pandemic.