MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The last two William & Mary teams haven’t been very successful, not even by FCS standards, but within the past nine seasons the Tribe has twice reached the Division I-AA semifinals.
And then, of course, there was that monumental upset of Notre Dame.
OK, so the only football fans who actually remember that upset were West Virginia safety Darwin Cook and his brother, who, in their boredom, built William & Mary into a major-college juggernaut … on the “NCAA Football 2006” video game.
Why two kids from Cleveland, Ohio, would turn their controllers toward the colonial campus in Williamsburg, Va., speaks to how kooky the guy nicknamed “Cookie” can be. But the brothers each took two positions on offense and defense, built their player grades up to 99 and let Cinderella make magic with the thumbstick.
“We put us in an independent conference, like Notre Dame,” Cook recalled. “We scheduled all the hard teams, beat ’em all and went to the national championship.”
The real-life Tribe stunned Virginia 26-14 in 2009, and last year’s 2-9 squad lost 7-6 at Maryland. So West Virginia’s players have been amply forewarned about the embarrassment potential of taking Saturday’s opponent lightly. FCS teams won a record 10 games against FBS schools last season, and since Appalachian State’s unforgettable takedown of Michigan in 2007, programs such as Virginia Tech, Pitt, Ole Miss, Minnesota and Oregon State have been ambushed by teams with 22 fewer scholarships.
“Do we want to be the next ones on that list? I don’t think so,” said WVU coach Dana Holgorsen on Tuesday. “We want to take these guys serious.”
And serious is how redshirt freshman center Tyler Orlosky sounded when he said: “It’s not about who’s better, it’s about who’s better on Saturday.”
The Mountaineers are 10-0 all-time against I-AA teams, including a 42-12 victory over James Madison last season in Landover, Md.
“I’ll be honest with you, we probably took James Madison too lightly, though we came out with a win,” admitted linebacker Jared Barber. “We definitely could have prepared better. So we’re taking this game as if we’re playing Oklahoma or Texas.”
While Cook still beams about his video game glory days with the Tribe, the senior can’t comprehend how WVU could overlook any team on its schedule.
“I could see if we went 10-3 or 12-0 last year, but when you go 7-6 , you ain’t thinking about nobody but yourself and trying to get better,” he said. “There’s no point to take another team lightly when everyone is taking us lightly.”