Behind dual-threat McKee, Tribe looks for first win at Norfolk State

dtjohnson@vagazette.com

With William and Mary receivers DeVonte Dedmon and Jalen Christian out this week, the Tribe will rely more on wideouts Daniel Kuzjak, Jack Armstrong and Isaiah Kinder along with tight end Andrew Caskin in Saturday’s game at Norfolk State (6 p.m./online at NSUSpartans.com.

Though W&M scored only 10 points in last week’s loss, coach Jimmye Laycock saw encouraging signs. Quarterback Tommy McKee, a third-year junior making his first start, rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown. He became the first W&M quarterback to lead the team in rushing since David Corley in 2000.

McKee, who ran the triple option at Cox High in Virginia Beach, didn’t find out he would be starting until Friday afternoon. Even then, it seemed likely the Tribe would use two quarterbacks in the game — if not three.

Instead, McKee was in for every series except one. Sophomore Brandon Battle came in when McKee was cramping.

“I thought he showed good poise out there,” Laycock said. “Until (he) really gets in a game, you don’t know how he’s going to react. I thought his poise was good, his decision making was pretty good, and he was very mentally into it.”

McKee, who only took about a dozen snaps last season in backing up Steve Cluley, proved something to himself.

“I always had that confidence and belief in myself to lead the team, but obviously I hadn’t been put in that situation,” he said. “It just boosted my confidence to know I can do this and do it successfully.”

The biggest positive came from the defense, especially the front seven. Last season, the Tribe allowed 207 rushing yards per game, with only 10 quarterback sacks.

On Saturday, W&M held Virginia to 92 yards on 32 attempts (2.9 per). The Tribe sacked quarterback Kurt Benkert three times.

“Last year, we weren’t so good in both of those categories,” linebacker Arman Jones said. “This season, from winter to spring to summer, we really harped on stopping the rush and getting some pressure on the quarterback.

“We made some defensive adjustments to help us with the sacks. I hope we can continue to build on that and play our brand of football.”

The Cavaliers scored four touchdowns, but one came with 55 seconds left in the game after the Tribe fumbled at the U.Va. 25-yard line.

“They probably have some issues on their offensive line, but I thought we played well,” Laycock said. “I was very encouraged by that. These guys had been practicing well, so I wasn’t surprised at how well we played on defense.”

Notes

Nick Wimmer, expected to start at center this season, is not expected to play Saturday at Norfolk State. He missed the opener with an injury. … This will be the fourth consecutive season W&M has played its first two games on the road. In each of the previous seasons, the Tribe started 1-1. … William and Mary committed only two penalties (for 10 yards) in the loss at Virginia. … W&M is 13-0 all-time versus the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, including 6-0 against Norfolk State. … Defensive tackle Will Kiely was the Tribe’s only true freshman to play last week. He was one of 13 players who made their college debuts in Scott Stadium.

Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveJohnsonDP.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
32°