Coming into the 2012 season, expectations were not high for the University of Richmond football team. The Spiders ended the 2011 season on an eight-game losing streak and finished last in the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA).
Coach Danny Rocco did not worry about the expectations. “The team showed signs of being able to be this good,” said Rocco. He went on to say the coaching staff worked hard to ‘pull out all of [the team’s] talent and ability.’”
The players responded well to new coaching staff, commenting on the staff’s strictness and competitiveness.
“This coaching staff we have here is pretty special,” sophomore quarterback Michael Strauss said. “I’ve had plenty of coaches, and [Coach Rocco] is at the top.”
Sophomore linebacker Aaron Roane credits much of the team’s success to the captains.
“We have a lot of great leaders that brought the team together over the summer,” Roane said.
The Spiders finished the 2012 season with an 8-3 (6-2) record, which earned them a share of the CAA title. The team finished on a four-game winning streak and ended the season ranked 17th nationally. Despite Richmond’s success, it failed to receive a bid to the playoffs, which includes twenty teams.
Rocco was far from thrilled with the selection committee’s decision. “The only thing that’s at all disappointing [about the season] is that we are the first team since 1996 that finished in the CAA at 8-3 and 6-2 and did not get invited into the postseason,” he said. “It’s just a real shame.”
Roane said: “Everyone was disappointed and upset. Everyone felt bad for the seniors.”
Strauss said, “It’s a shame to finish our season that strong and you still can’t get in over a team that you beat.” Strauss is referring to Richmond’s 28-17 win at Villanova on October 6th.
The Spiders’ season did not come without controversy. Senior quarterback and captain John Laub suffered a broken ankle midway through the season at New Hampshire, and sophomore Michael Strauss stepped into the starting role.
“I prepared every week like I would as a starter,” Strauss said. “I know I can play football, so once I got in there, you just do what you’re taught.”
Richmond will lose several seniors, such as leading rusher Kendall Gaskins and stalwart safety Cooper Taylor, but the underclassmen are optimistic about next year’s team.
Roane is ready to compete for another conference title and hopes to earn a playoff birth. “We are starting to workout today, so we are diving in head first,” he said.
Rocco said: “I expect to build on our foundation. I anticipate us building on this season and continuing to rebuild our program and truly become a program of national prominence once again.”
Contact reporter Jack Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org