The William and Mary football team will host Weber State University Saturday at 1 p.m. in a first-round NCAA playoff game.
Tickets are available.
Just 24 hours after a gut-wrenching 13-10 loss at Richmond that cost W&M a share of the conference title, the Tribe was rewarded for their stellar 9-2 season and second-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association by being named to host a Big Sky Conference team.
"Our goal every year is to be one of the 16 teams invited to the playofs," quarterback R.J. Archer said on Monday. "It's fun to finally get in. It's exciting. I think we have a special group of players here, and it's nice to see the hard work paying off.
"What's really exciting is playing again at Zable. On Senior Day, I was hoping it would not be the last time I'd get to play there. We were lucky enough to do what we needed to do early in the season to get a home game. It'll be new. It'll be exciting, and we're fortunate enough to be a part of it."
Win Saturday and the Tribe will face the winner of the game between third-seeded Southern Illinois and Eastern Illinois. Should Southern Illinois win, the Salukis would host W&M in Carbondale, Ill., on December 5. If Eastern Illinois wins, the location of the game would be announced later.
The Tribe, which was not seeded by the NCAA, is making its first appearance in the postseason since advancing to the national semifinals in 2004. The invitation Sunday was particularly sweet following the NCAA’s snub of last year’s 7-4 club.
“It’s a much better feeling than last year,” coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I’m excited for our players, excited for our fans, excited for the parents (of his players). When they came in we were coming off being conference champions; then we had a couple of losing seasons. They've worked hard to get back to where we are. This wasn't given to them. They earned it."
Weber State finished the season 7-4, and enters the game against the Tribe with a two-game winning streak following a 31-10 loss to top-seeded Montana on Halloween.
Located in Ogden, Utah, Weber State (pronounced Wee-ber) is a public university with more than 23,000 students (full and part-time). It was founded in 1889 and now offers more than 200 undergraduate degrees (the most in the state of Utah).
The athletic program features 13 Division I programs.
Weber State has never faced a CAA team in the postseason, but it will be the Wildcats’ fourth foray into the postseason in school history, and its second appearance in as many years. Weber State earned berths in 1987, 1991 and 2008.
Weber State has one of the nation’s premier passing attacks, as it averages 293.5 yards per game. Junior quarterback Carmen Higgins triggers the Wildcats’ aerial assault, having thrown for 3,154 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. Higgins has completed 65 percent of his passes, and his 30 touchdowns tied him for the Big Sky Conference lead, while his 3,154 passing yards were third.
He has also thrown a league-high 16 interceptions, and has attempted fewer than 30 passes only once (21 attempts in a 27-9 win at Northern Arizona).
Higgins primary target is speedy senior wideout Tim Toone, first in the Big Sky with 77 receptions and second in both receiving yards (1,058) and touchdown receptions (10).
He comes into Saturday’s game with 200 career catches, second-most in Weber State history.
The Wildcats’ ground game is keyed by senior tailback Trevyn Smith. He will come into Saturday’s game with 979 rushing yards on 221 attempts and seven touchdowns. He will graduate as one of the most productive players in Weber State history, as his 5,007 career rushing yards are already a school record (and the third best career total in Big Sky Conference history). Smith’s 6,376 career all-purpose yards is a WSU school record and is the third-most in Big Sky Conference history.
Defensively, the squad boasts the Big Sky’s second stingiest unit that allows just 20.2 points per game. Overall, the Wildcats yield 372.9 yards per game (223.2 passing, 149.7 on the ground).
"You know, I haven't seen that much of teams from that part of the country," Laycock said. "What little we have seen, they look very good, very physical, and they throw the ball well. The one thing you do know is that any time you're one of 16 teams chosen for the playoffs, you're very, very good."
Teams currently in the Colonial Athletic Association enter the postseason 5-5 all-time against the current Big Sky Conference lineup. The University of Montana is the most-played opponent, with current CAA schools holding a 4-3 all-time edge against the Grizzlies.
"I hope our league schedule prepared us for this," Laycock said. "We've played some very tough games in the league, including going back to back against New Hampshire and Richmond. Those were very physical, very tough, very hard-fought. It's a very tough league, week in and week out."