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Tribe, Spiders meet Saturday for 120th time in football

  • Offensive cog
    Offensive cog  The Tribe will likely need a big game from running back Jonathan Grimes, shown here against Delaware earlier this season, in order to defeat state and CAA rival Richmond on Saturday.  Jim Agnew
  • Hopping mad
    Hopping mad  The Tribe defense will have to bounce back from last week's subpar performance against James Madison if W&M is to hold off Richmond and improve its seeding in the upcoming playoffs.  Guy Crittenden
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It is the South’s oldest football rivalry, and Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game between sixth-ranked William & Mary and 18th-ranked University of Richmond is significant in a host of ways that have nothing to do with the Capital Cup that is presented to the victor.

Should the Tribe win and the No. 1-ranked University of Delaware fall to Villanova, William & Mary will win its first Colonial Athletic Association title since 2004 and an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Ironically, that’s the last time the Tribe defeated the Spiders, although the College leads the all-time series, 59-55-5.

In addition to the game, to be played at sold-out Zable Stadium, Tribe Athletics will honor the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces. Approximately 200 service members from local bases are expected to attend Military Appreciation Night via pre-distributed, free tickets.

"This event is a way for our university, fans and community to recognize those who unselfishly give so much for our country," said Spencer Milne, director of marketing, promotions and ticket services for William & Mary Athletics.

The evening’s activities begin before the game, when paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division Parachute Demonstration Team will be dropped into Zable Stadium.

An all-military color guard will present the colors for the national anthem, which will be performed by Sgt. Patricia Conyers from the Army Training and Doctrine Band.

During halftime, the Training and Doctrine Band will perform a military medley, and approximately 15 new soldiers will be sworn into the Army.

Last year in Richmond, Spiders kicker Andrew Howard booted a 48-yard field goal on the last play of the game to give UR a 13-10 victory. Both teams were invited to the FCS playoffs, with the Tribe advancing to the national semifinal game before losing to eventual national champion Villanova.

The Tribe, (7-3, 5-2 CAA) beaten last week at James Madison to fall from the No. 1 ranking to sixth in the Sports Network/Fathead top-25 poll, seems assured of a playoff berth no matter what happens against UR (6-4, 4-3 CAA). However, the game carries no small significance in terms of seeding and/or homefield advantage for the playoffs.

Coach Jimmye Laycock said he wasn’t inclined to stress those things to his team – they almost certainly were already aware.

“I think our players are -- they had to be pretty smart to get into school here in the first place,” Laycock said.  “So I think if they can figure that all out, they don’t need me to tell them all that kind of stuff.

“It’s the most important game because it’s the next game.  That’s the way that we’ve approached it all the way through, and that’s the way we’ll approach it this year.”

Expect to see fifth-year senior Mike Callahan at quarterback Saturday. Battling through a shoulder injury, Callahan boasts a 142.8 quarterback efficiency rating and is coming off a solid performance last week at JMU in which he threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

“He won’t stay down, you cannot keep him down,” Laycock marveled. “I thought he was going to be out and the next thing you know he’s tugging at me to get in there and go.

“He’s very much of a competitor, a great leader, and he’s done a very good job with this offense.”

Coming into his own is receiver Ryan Moody, who caught eight passes for 122 yards and a touchdown at JMU. Moody and fellow receiver Chase Hill, who has six touchdown catches in nine games, give Callahan a couple of exterior weapons who are perfect complements to star running back Jonathan Grimes. The junior has 714 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

Other highlights a victory by the College would achieve:

It would give the Tribe a sixth CAA victory this season, the seventh time W&M has won six or more conference games since joining the league in 1993.

It would give W&M back-to-back eight-win seasons for the first time since 1993-94.

It would mark Laycock’s 208th victory, and the College’s 540th in history.

For those unable to attend, the game will be televised live by The Comcast Network Mid-Atlantic and Philadelphia and locally on Cox 11 at 3:30. In addition, the broadcast team of Jay Colley and Bob Sheeran will be on the air at 3 p.m. on The Tide (92.3 FM) and WBACH (107.9 FM). Tribe football alum Matt Ridjaneck will join the broadcast team as the sideline reporter.

Check back here Saturday evening for a game wrap-up, and again Sunday late morning when the Tribe’s expected invitation to the FCS playoffs is announced.