Final Score: University of Richmond- 40, University of New Hampshire- 44
What Happened: A pair of controversial calls pushed the game in the favor of New Hampshire, canceling out a tremendous comeback effort by Richmond. After falling behind, 34-17, early in the third quarter, the Spiders picked up their play to pull to within one score, 34-27, heading into the fourth quarter. Richmond’s offense tied the game at 34 on a short touchdown pass from backup Michael Strauss to receiver Stephen Barnette early in the fourth quarter. The play was Strauss’s first of the game after starter John Laub was forced to leave the game with an ankle injury. The Spiders took their first lead of the game when fullback Kendall Gaskins ran into the end zone from 48 yards out just one play after freshman cornerback Ayo Ogunniyi recorded his first career interception. After the touchdown was where the first controversial call came into play, or rather lack of call. UR kicker Remington Hinshaw’s extra point attempt was blocked on a play where it looked as if the UNH player who blocked the kick was offsides. The Wildcats later took the lead back, 41-40, on a 5-yard touchdown run by tailback Chris Setian. On the ensuing Richmond possession, another controversial call was made when officials called receiver Rashad Ponder’s catch out of bounds on a 4th and 5 play that would’ve resulted in a first down. Richmond’s defense was able to force a UNH field goal and give the offense a chance with 1:08 remaining, but the game ended as Strauss’s Hail Mary attempt fell to the turf as time expired.
Spider Positives: While devastating, this loss was further proof of the Spiders’ resilience and that new coach Danny Rocco has this team moving in the right direction. Down 17 on the road against a team with a high-powered offense, Richmond was able to stay in the game with improving defense and a good mix of run and pass on offense. Before getting knocked out of the game, Laub was putting together another complete game, throwing for 269 yards and a TD and running for 103 yards. Meanwhile, Gaskins continued his role as touchdown machine, tacking on three more scores to go with his 97 rushing yards. Also, after a tough first half, Richmond’s defense did what it needed to in the second half, led by strong efforts from defensive lineman Kerry Wynn and linebacker Eric Wright.
Spider Negatives: Rocco and the rest of the Spiders aren’t going to see any silver lining to the fact that this loss seriously hurts their chances at competing for a CAA title this season, dropping Richmond to 4-3 and 2-2 in conference play. Again, even though Richmond was able to erase a poor first-half effort, it has become a consistent theme for the season, and consistency must be achieved to pick up wins against top-level CAA opponents such as UNH, especially on the road. Also, the Spiders did make a few big mistakes, including a short missed field goal at the end of the first half and a dropped pass that would’ve resulted in a first down by tight end Kevin Finney on Richmond’s penultimate offensive possession. This is going to be a tough loss to bounce back from, especially if the Spiders have to do it without Laub.
Up Next: The Spiders head home next Saturday, where they’ll face another tough CAA opponent in rival James Madison University. Kickoff in Robins Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m. in a game that will serve as the first of three straight home games for Richmond.
Contact staff writer David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org