Let the wide receivers be divas. Rob Varno has work to do.
Varno, William and Mary's senior tight end, had two key catches on the Tribe's first sustained drive, sparking an offense that had been dormant for more than a quarter in a 38-0 demolition of Weber State on Saturday in the first round of the FCS playoffs.
With the Tribe's offense sputtering throughout a scoreless first quarter, quarterback R.J. Archer turned to a sure-handed target, hitting Varno for an 11-yard catch to begin the drive that led to Brian Pate's 27-yard field goal, the Tribe's first offensive score.
"Coach called my number, and so I figured it was my turn, my time," said Varno, who finished with three catches for 26 yards. "R.J. stuck it in there both times pretty good. We just took advantage of what the defense was giving us."
Watching film of the Wildcats' man-to-man coverage, William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock thought his 6-foot-5, 224-pound tight end could do some damage.
"Rob is a big part of our passing game," Laycock said. "A couple of new wrinkles we put in this week. We liked the matchup of our tight ends on some of their defensive players. … They're manned up on the outside guys, and the linebackers or strong safeties have to grab the tight ends, and sometimes they don't pick it up, sometimes they're late, and sometimes we've got them outmanned. So we went to them a few times."
Varno also made a 10-yard reception on the second-quarter drive that ended in Pate's field goal, hauling in a pass over the middle and turning his big body upfield to give William and Mary (10-2) first-and-goal from the 10.
"(Archer) likes to put it up high to me, and I don't mind when he does. Just put it where only I can get it," Varno said. "I don't think I have anything exceptional. It's just kind of being in the right situation at the right time, (and) a product of R.J. throwing me good balls and putting it where it needs to be."
Varno is the Tribe's second-leading receiver, with 42 catches for 397 yards and three touchdowns. But he's not one to agitate for the ball, even when, like on Saturday, Archer's throws have too much air for shorter receivers, who also fumbled a few should-have-been catches.
"I don't try to expand my role by being vocal too much," Varno said. "Maybe I'll say something to the coaches at halftime, when we make adjustments and stuff, but it's not my place to be out there complaining about numbers and catches and all that."
Archer doesn't need to be reminded of the weapon he has in Varno, averaging 9.5 yards per catch, or in sophomore counterpart Alex Gottlieb, whose three catches have gone for 47 yards, a 15.7 per-reception average.
"(Varno) is somebody making plays," Archer said. "He's a big target, and it seems like he's always open. He gets us going pretty good. (The Wildcats) showed they like to play a lot of man coverage on film. They mixed it up pretty well today, but we like either of our tight ends, especially Rob, one-on-one against pretty much anybody they can put on him."
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