Final Score: University of Richmond- 35, James Madison University- 29
What Happened: What looks like an upset on paper doesn’t feel like one in Robins Stadium. Unranked Richmond looked like the better team for most of the game against the second-ranked James Madison Dukes. In his first ever game as a starting quarterback, sophomore Michael Strauss was dominant, throwing for four touchdowns and more than 250 yards. His favorite targets were receiver Stephen Barnette and tight end Kevin Finney. Fullback Kendall Gaskins also had a solid game, running for more than 100 yards, including a game-clinching 40-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. On defense, Richmond was able to limit JMU’s normally entertaining spread offense, even forcing the Dukes to replace their speedy starting quarterback Justin Thorpe with the more efficient passer Michael Birdsong midway through the third quarter. Birdsong nearly brought his team back from the brink, but his final pass into the end zone fell to the turf as time expired. This is a big win for the Spiders and a signature win for Danny Rocco in his first season as Spiders head coach. This also gives Richmond a shot at a playoff berth if they can continue winning.
Spider Positives: As mentioned, Strauss was phenomenal, leaving Spider fans hopeful for the future, both in seasons to come and for the rest of this season as well. He was decisive with the football and didn’t try to do too much, opting to throw the ball away under duress several times when he could have forced a throw into coverage. The other stars of this game are the Richmond defense as a whole. They followed the gameplan perfectly, making Thorpe try to beat them with his arm instead of his legs. The defense was also opportunistic, taking advantage of some poor throws with a couple key interceptions, first by Reggie Barnette and then by Doug Howell. Howell’s interception was near the end of the first half and led to a Spider touchdown that gave UR the lead, 15-10, heading into the locker room.
Spider Negatives: Richmond’s defense let up in the fourth quarter, allowing Birdsong to give JMU a legitimate shot at the end of the game. Special teams were a big sore sport for the Spiders. Not only did they allow JMU to recover the onside kick, but kicker Remington Hinshaw also missed three extra points. In the first half, the defense had a tough time getting off the field on third downs.
Up Next: Richmond gets a much-needed week off before coming back on Nov. 3 for another home CAA matchup with Rhode Island. Kickoff for that game is set for 6 p.m.
Contact staff writer David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org