WILLIAMSBURG — William and Mary senior defensive tackle Tyler Claytor felt for the University of Virginia as he watched Notre Dame last Saturday on TV snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in Charlottesville.
The Irish, ranked eighth in the most recent AP Top 25 poll, and trailing 27-26, won the game when backup quarterback DeShone Kizer hit Will Fuller for a 39-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone with 12 seconds left. Final: Notre Dame 34, Virginia 27.
Claytor knew what it felt like to lose a game in the final seconds, to be emotionally drained.
But his empathy was short-lived.
"Hopefully, they'll leave with the same feeling they did last week," Claytor said Tuesday, "with us coming out on top."
W&M visits Scott Stadium Saturday to face the Cavaliers for the first time since 2011.
Much of the regional and national attention surrounding Virginia has been focused on its brutal non-conference schedule. After opening at UCLA, currently ranked 10th nationally, the Tribe will be the first team outside the AP Top 25 the Cavaliers have faced. And next week, Virginia welcomes Boise State, which dropped outside of the rankings following a loss last Saturday to BYU.
In his weekly press conference Monday, sixth-year Virginia coach Mike London mostly took questions about how painful the loss was, how the team is recovering and other Cavaliers' personnel-related inquiries. Thirty minutes went by before a question about William and Mary was presented to the former Tribe assistant coach and University of Richmond head coach, and that was the final one.
"They'll come to play," London said of W&M, "As I said, you can look at FCS. I mean, we're not looking at it that way. We're looking at it as another opponent, the chance for us to compete and win a home game here in Charlottesville, get moving in a positive direction coming off these last two games, particularly this last game.
"Again, no disrespect to them, it's more about us than it is about them. But understanding about them, they're a well-coached team. Like I said, I've been there, so I know what's being said and how those kids feel about it. They got a chance to come in here and compete and do well."
Claytor represents how many of those Football Championship Subdivision kids that London alluded to feel. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Snellville, Ga. product thought he was overlooked by Football Bowl Subdivision schools coming out of high school.
He missed the Tribe's last matchup against an FBS opponent, the 2014 season-opener at Virginia Tech, due to an injury.
"Playing that one game every year gives you a chance to kind of get back at those big schools that kind of shuffled you to the side," Claytor said, "and prove what you've got."
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT VIRGINIA
All-time: Cavaliers lead series against W&M 27-6-1.
Last time: In 2011, Virginia won 40-3. Prior to that, the Tribe claimed a 26-14 win in Charlottesville in 2009.
W&M connections: London got his coaching start under Jimmye Laycock at W&M, serving as a defensive line coach from 1991-94.
Virginia offensive line coach Dave Borbely worked at Notre Dame from 1999-2001 with Tribe offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers and W&M defensive line coach Kevin Lewis served under London at Richmond in 2009.
Offensive playmakers: Junior running back Taquan Mizzell and senior receiver Canaan Severin.
Mizzell carried 18 times for 73 yards against Notre Dame and Severin earned ACC Receiver of the Week honors after tallying 11 catches for 153 yards.
Virginia put up 416 total yards against Notre Dame as redshirt junior quarterback Matt Johns threw 26-of-38 for 289 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"They really mixed it up," Laycock said of the Cavs' backs, "and are utilizing their speed in so far as what they're doing. Their scheme looked pretty good – it looked real good, in fact."
On defense: "I think up front, their D-tackles are good," W&M quarterback Steve Cluley said. "Their secondary is very solid and I think it's just going to be a long four quarters, strap-up football game and whoever goes harder for longer is going to come out on top."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.
News to use
What: William and Mary (1-0) at Virginia (0-2)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday