His starting quarterback is shelved for at least two weeks, his leading rusher is hobbled and his top tackler from last season may be done for the year.

Other than that Jimmye Laycock, how goes William and Mary's preparation for Saturday's visit from No. 1 Villanova?

A Villanova program, by the way, that's foiled you at every recent turn and, just in case you missed the memo, is the reigning national champion.

The Tribe's ever-cryptic coach offered little insight Tuesday. Not about his mindset. Not about the team's compromised personnel.

Hey, if Laycock wants to play coy with Wildcats counterpart Andy Talley, have at it. When the opponent is this good, has beaten you six times in five years and nudged you by a point in last season's playoff semifinals, you avoid couch sessions with jaded media therapists.

Quarterback Mike Callahan: Out for at least two weeks with a throwing shoulder issue. Don't bother asking how serious or if surgery is required.

Tailback Jonathan Grimes: A no-go last week at Maine because of an unspecified injury. See for yourself Saturday.

Linebacker Jake Trantin: Still listed on the roster, but yet to play this season for reasons unknown.

Not to say the seventh-ranked Tribe can't hang, or win, Saturday. Laycock's bunch has come from behind to win at Old Dominion and Maine, victories that ease the sting of an opening defeat at Massachusetts and indicate progress, particularly on defense.

Also, William and Mary has a history against No. 1s. The Tribe beat New Hampshire in 2005 and Southern Illinois in last season's playoff quarterfinals.

But Laycock said Saturday's fourth-quarter rally at Maine was preceded by "three quarters of so-so football," a ratio that won't suffice against Villanova. Indeed, one pedestrian quarter could spell defeat against an opponent that's committed no turnovers in the teams' last four meetings.

"We've got to get turnovers against them," Laycock said within earshot of linebacker Dante Cook, whose interception return for touchdown at Maine fueled a 21-point fourth quarter.

"I was kind of surprised he was able to take it all the way and score," Laycock said. "I didn't know he had that kind of running ability. Maybe we can put him on offense."

As a redshirt sophomore, Cook has faced the Wildcats only twice, both last season. But he acknowledged the losing streak "is a sore subject," and a role in December's playoff defeat.

A special teams stalwart in 2009, Cook was on the field when Villanova lined up for a third-quarter punt on fourth-and-8 from the Tribe's 46. Trailing 13-7, the Wildcats faked, and Matt Szczur ran 9 yards.

Nine plays later, Villanova scored the decisive touchdown.

"I was probably a millisecond away from stopping that play," Cook said.

Szczur is primarily a slot receiver in Talley's spread offense, but he scored the Wildcats' first touchdown on a 62-yard run from a direct snap. A star in the Chicago Cubs' minor-league system last summer, Szczur is questionable Saturday with a left ankle sprain, but even if he doesn't play, his presence will be felt.

Seeing Villanova and others use the so-called wildcat formation, and knowing he'd have an inexperienced quarterback this season, Laycock added a few direct snaps to the playbook. They were designed for Grimes, but at Maine, Laycock called one for backup Courtland Mariner.

"I think the most surprised person that play got called was Courtland," Laycock said.

The Black Bears, too. Mariner ran 10 yards for William and Mary's first touchdown.

"Just kind of a little thing here and there," Laycock said of the wildcat.

Expect that and other wrinkles Saturday. The Tribe will need them.

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593