Blacksburg, VA — One year ago, the questions weren’t worth asking. This season it’s impossible to avoid.
How do you, as the coach-speak favorite goes, take it one game at a time? How do you focus 100 percent on this week’s opponent, FCS William & Mary, when next week’s opponent is Ohio State?
As it turns out, there are a couple different ways to go about it.
First, the veterans can step up any time freshmen eyes tend to wander down the schedule. As early as January and February, senior defensive tackle Luther Maddy was quick to remind young players that Ohio State shouldn’t be their concern.
“I think a lot of the guys understand now,” Maddy said. “We had a team meeting earlier in the year, us, the seniors, had a team meeting with only players and we spoke to them about what our expectations were for this season, and we also spoke about William & Mary. Ohio State is definitely going to be a big game, but first we have to take care of William & Mary.”
You can also prove the track record of the opponent. Head coach Frank Beamer and Maddy both rattled off past results, listing games in which the Tribe went up against an FBS school early in the season and just missed grabbing the upset.
“I think when you look what happened at West Virginia last year, it’s tied up going late into the ballgame,” said head coach Frank Beamer. “North Carolina a couple years back, close ballgame. They play these games a lot, they play well in them. They certainly have our attention and our respect, so we need to get ready and see where we are.”
Last season the Tribe led West Virginia by 10 in the third quarter before squandering the lead and falling 24-17. The year before that it was a one-point loss to Maryland; in 2010, North Carolina squeaked by the Tribe by four points. All were road games for William & Mary.
Newly named starting quarterback Michael Brewer, like everyone else at the Monday press conference, was quick to compliment the week one opponent, and was definitive in saying there is just no way the Tribe will be taken lightly.
“We’re not going to overlook William & Mary,” Brewer, who will be making his first start at quarterback since his senior year of high school, said. “They’re a good program, they are really well coached, they have a lot of seniors on the team, they play hard. That’s a team that we have to be ready to play. It’s a team that can beat you. We will be ready to play, we aren’t going to overlook them and we are going to continue to take this thing one game at a time. ”
Perhaps the method more effective than any other is to open up your own closet door and show off the ghost that refuses to go away. For Tech, the poltergeist wears purple and gold and resides two hours North in Harrisonburg.
“I think we’ve already brought it up,” wide receiver Willie Byrn said, referring to the James Madison debacle of 2010 . “That was awful. I remember I was redshirting. I was at the game. It was raining. It was cold. I think I left before the game was over, just kind of naturally thinking we would pull it out. And obviously we didn’t. And that’s a feeling you don’t ever want to have.
“I think the younger guys, it’s easy for them being at a prestigious program to kind of just scoff at it and say, ‘Yeah that won’t happen, don’t worry about it,’ but it’s our job as older guys and leaders to make sure that they know, and that’s what we are going to harp on a lot this week.”
For Tech, choosing the method in which the team goes about taking William & Mary seriously isn’t nearly as important as actually doing it.