William & Mary at Virginia Tech

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 7:46 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET
SITE: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
TV: ACC Network
SERIES: Virginia Tech leads 41-18-4. The Hokies have won the last 11 meetings.
RANKINGS: Virginia Tech No. 12

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tribe

–QB Shon Mitchell, who started all three games he played in as a freshman last year, got his sophomore year off to a solid start. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown against one interception in the win over Bucknell despite being under heavy pressure. He was sacked four times, a stat the Tech defenders much be relishing.

–WR DeVonte Dedmon marked his return from a knee injury in last season’s opener that cost him the rest of the 2017 campaign with three caches for 125 yards in the win over Bucknell. Among them was a 75-yard touchdown reception with 11:55 left in the game for the decisive points.

–LB Arman Jones was credited with 10 tackles against Bucknell. The junior started all 11 games as a sophomore in 2017 and ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 72 total that included 2.5 sacks.

–S Isaiah Lester recorded the third interception of his career in the win over Bucknell. He was one of four players with five tackles with four of them solo efforts. He also was credited with breaking up a pass.

Hokies

–QB Josh Jackson, a team captain as a redshirt sophomore, showed improved efficiency in the opener against Florida State. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 207 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Jackson improved to 10-4 as a starting quarterback.

–LB Rayshard Ashby seemed everywhere against Florida State, making seven tackles, including two loss, and forcing a fumble. He earned ACC Linebacker of the Week in his first career start. His forced fumble was especially timely as it came on Florida State’s first drive and led to a field goal and a 10-0 lead for Tech.

–CB Caleb Farley, a redshirt freshman who missed last season due to a knee injury, was selected the ACC Defensive Back of the Week after the opener against Florida State. He intercepted two passes and had a sack among his two tackles. Farley suffered a torn ACL on the first day of 2017 fall camp, when he was playing receiver. He moved to defense in spring ball.

–P Oscar Bradburn averaged 39.9 yards on nine punts against Florida State, which doesn’t immediately catch your eye, but four were placed inside the 20 and none was returned thanks to great hang time. That’s a winning “Beamer Ball” performance.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Virginia Tech (1-0) didn’t take long to catch the attention of the pollsters.

The Hokies’ impressive 24-3 victory over then-No. 19 Florida State in their opener moved them up eight spots to No. 12 in this week’s voting as they began preparing to host William & Mary (1-0) in their home opener Saturday.

Kickoff at Blacksburg’s Lane Stadium is 2 p.m. ET. ACC Network stations will carry the telecast.

Hokies quarterback Josh Jackson and wide receiver Damon Hazelton connected for a 10-yard touchdown on the first drive and the Virginia Tech defense took care of business the rest of the way against the Seminoles.

William & Mary also won its opener, though in not quite-so dominating fashion. The Tribe defeated Bucknell 14-7.

On paper, the Hokies have advantages across the board.

But this season will not be like any other season for the Tribe — or at least in the past four decades. Jimmie Laycock has been at the helm of the William & Mary football program for 38 years. No. 39 will be his last.

Nothing would make his players happier than pinning an “L” on the biggest and baddest team in the state.

“The emphasis should be on this year, this year’s team, not on me,” Laycock told the Richmond Times. “I’ve tried to make it never about me or what I’ve done, or what I haven’t done, which is plenty. It’s about the team and about the program and about the school and that’s the way I’m going to continue this year, I can assure you of that.”

Tribe players can assure their coach they are going to go all out to send him out a winner.

“Human nature takes over in the end, and we do kind of as a team collectively want to send him out on a good note,” sophomore quarterback Shon Mitchell said.

Mitchell did his part in the opener against Bucknell. He ran for a touchdown and threw for the game-winner — a 75-yard catch and run by DeVonte Dedmon — in the fourth quarter.

Playing the likes of Virginia Tech gives players such as Mitchell and wide receiver Jack Armstrong a chance to prove they can play with the nation’s best.

“I know for a lot of guys in this state felt like they were snubbed by Tech,” Armstrong told the (Hampton) Daily News. “And it is exciting. I can’t lie, going into Lane Stadium in front of 60K. But once you step (between) the white lines, it becomes another football game.”

Armstrong, Mitchell and Laycock know it won’t be easy, especially after the Hokies dismantled Florida State for their first win in Tallahassee since 1974.

“I don’t think anybody … would come away with anything but being very impressed with the way Virginia Tech played,” Laycock said. “The skill level they have, the effort and enthusiasm they played with, was very evident to me and would be evident to anybody watching.”

Bud Foster’s defense started eight new players against the Seminoles and all the defense did was stop the FSU offense it its tracks. On 36 of 63 plays, the Seminoles did not make positive yards, and the Hokies forced five turnovers and recorded five sacks.

“Everything they did, we saw in practice and on film,” Virginia Tech senior defensive tackle Ricky Walker told the Richmond Times. “I’m just proud. We definitely made a statement.”

Walker gave coach Justin Fuente and Foster a scare when he and teammate Reggie Floyd collided helmet-to-helmet.

Walker promised to be ready for the home opener against Mitchell and William & Mary.

There was a time when William & Mary dominated the series. The smaller school recorded 12 straight wins against Virginia Tech from 1940 through 1953.

But the Hokies have won the past 11 meetings. The Tribe’s last win against Virginia came in 1976 — a 27-15 verdict in Blacksburg.