WILLIAMSBURG—R.J. Archer has no recollection of it, but the story goes like this: At age 5 or 6, he's sitting in the stands with family at Scott Stadium for a University of Virginia football game.
The couple seated in front of him know little about the Cavaliers, so Archer, who grew up in nearby Earlysville and attended Virginia games before he could walk, tells them all about the Cavs. Team record, best players, the whole shebang.
William and Mary's starting quarterback and do everything in his power to defeat the school of his boyhood idols.
"The way it sets up for us, it should be a real exciting season," Archer said. "It's a storybook ending, or more like a storybook beginning, to your season."
In the season opener for both, the Tribe and Virginia meet for the first time since 1995 at 6 p.m. Saturday.
It's William and Mary's annual foray against a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) program, while the Cavaliers will debut a new-look offense and hope to win their season opener for the first time since 2005.
As Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said, his players have plenty of memorable moments in their careers, but years later, it's the games against Virginia Tech or Penn State or Georgia or Virginia — big programs with big crowds in big stadia — that resonate.
"They will remember that experience," Laycock said.
Rush James Archer II — he is named after his father's uncle — almost certainly will remember. His father, Al, graduated from Virginia in the late '70s. R.J. wasn't one of those kids who frolic on the hill behind the north end zone at Scott Stadium. He was into the games and the players.
He has vague memories of the Shawn Moore-to- Herman Moore connection in the early '90s. Though he was only 8, he vividly recalls the Cavaliers' 33-28 victory against Florida State in 1995, the Seminoles' first-ever ACC loss.
"A direct snap to Warrick Dunn," Archer said, referring to the game's final play, "and Anthony Poindexter stuck his helmet into the ball and stopped him about an inch short (of the goal line)."
Archer neglected to mention Cavs linebacker Adrian Burnim on that same play, but you get the idea.
Archer became a star quarterback at nearby Albemarle High and attended football camps at U.Va. Former assistant Mike Groh invited him to walk on, but at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds as a high school senior, he thought that William and Mary provided a better fit athletically.
Archer began his W&M career as a quarterback, but switched to wide receiver his next two seasons and totaled 69 receptions. He moved back to quarterback heading into his redshirt junior year, since the Tribe needed a dependable backup to starter Jake Phillips.
Archer's mantra for both moves: Whatever helps the team.
"I had a great time playing receiver," said Archer, who has bulked up to a solid 220 pounds. "Some people have to wait until their junior or senior years just to get on the field, but I was lucky enough to be able to start early in my career and then play quarterback again."
Archer filled in ably last year in a loss against nationally ranked Villanova when Phillips went down with an injury. He completed 21 of 37 passes for 307 yards and a touchdown. He always tried to prepare as if he was needed at a moment's notice.
The coaching staff tutored Archer gradually last spring, then accelerated the pace during preseason to include a multitude of throws, reads and situations.
"The push and the pressure that we've put on him in preseason," Laycock said, "hopefully will pay off once we get going and get playing. I feel like he's become a much better quarterback than he was at the end of spring practice."
That said, Laycock doesn't want Archer to think that he has to win games himself. An improving, veteran defense removes some pressure from the offense. And the Tribe's offensive line, running backs and receivers will aid the quarterback's comfort level.
"We have the tools," Archer said, "we have the weapons to have a very good offense."
Saturday's gameWHO: William and Mary at Virginia.
WHEN: 6 p.m.