Delaware quarterback Trent Hurley’s final throw into the end zone was caught by Richmond safety Cooper Taylor, spoiling the Blue Hens’ fourth-quarter comeback attempt.
Down 20-7 to begin the fourth quarter, Delaware fought back to give itself a chance, down just six points with two seconds remaining and the ball 27 yards from the end zone, but Taylor’s interception, the Blue Hens’ fifth turnover of the game, ended the game in Richmond’s favor, 23-17.
“We were never really able to put them away offensively,” Richmond coach Danny Rocco said. “We didn’t score the amount of points you should when you take the ball away five times. It’s that simple.”
The big play that got Delaware back into the game came less than four minutes into the fourth quarter with the Spiders in their opponent’s territory trying to put the game out of reach.
UR sophomore quarterback Michael Strauss, in his third start since taking over for the injured John Laub, threw his first collegiate interception into the hands of Blue Hens safety Ricky Turnstall, who returned it 77 yards for a touchdown. That play cut Richmond’s lead to 20-14 with 11:30 remaining.
Strauss was under pressure on the throw, and he had to deal with pressure all game. After only allowing one sack all season, Richmond allowed three to Delaware. Rocco wasn’t surprised, he said.
“It was a fear of mine coming in,” he said. “There’s two things at play here. One, the opponent is sick and tired of hearing that [Strauss] is never getting sacked, so they just made up their mind, we’re sacking this guy.
“Two, that’s the nature of what they do. When you watch them throughout the course of the year, [UD defensive players] spend more time in the backfield than any team I’ve watched all year.”
The Delaware defense does give up some big plays because of how many players go after the quarterback though, Rocco said. The longest offensive plays for Richmond came by sophomore receiver Rashad Ponder, who finished with career-highs in receptions (5) and yards (84).
The Spiders had seven red-zone opportunities on offense, but only converted those into two touchdowns and three field goals.
“I didn’t feel great about our focus and execution [in the red-zone],” Rocco said. “Just a lot of little things that you watch. We played just well enough to win tonight.”
The five turnovers forced by Richmond’s defense brings its total to 12 in the last three games, all wins.
“The reason is we’re making an effort to do it in practice,” said Richmond cornerback Darryl Hamilton, who had two interceptions in the game. “The other thing is, we don’t like being on the field. We get tired. So, in order not to get tired, we get turnovers.”
Hamilton was one of 14 seniors honored before the game for Senior Day, the team’s final home game of the season.
Several other seniors made important plays during their final game in Robins Stadium. Fullback Kendall Gaskins rushed for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns, linebacker Darius McMillan had a game-high 13 tackles and Taylor had 8 tackles and a sack to go along with his game-ending interception.
“It’s tough, but it kind of helps that we won,” McMillan said of it being his final home game.
Rocco thanked his seniors at the end of his post-game press conference.
“These guys have been through a lot,” he said. “What they’re going to remember most is they’re going to remember how they finished.”
Richmond will finish its regular season in Williamsburg, Va., next Saturday against William & Mary. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. Ranked No. 20 heading into the game, Richmond kept its FCS playoff hopes alive with the win.
Rocco believes the team must win next week to get into the playoffs, he said.
Game Notes: UR sophomore defensive back Rodney Barnes blocked a punt late in the third quarter… After missing three extra point attempts two games ago, Spiders kicker Remington Hinshaw made both XP attempts and went 3/4 on field goals today… Delaware receiver Mike Milburn had a game-high 92 yards receiving.
Contact staff writer David Weissman at email@example.com