The No. 14 ranked University of Richmond Spiders shutout the Virginia Military Institute Keydets, 34-0, in the season opener this past Saturday at Robins Stadium.
The Richmond defense was suffocating, allowing only 174 total offensive yards (39 rushing, 135 passing) and nine first downs. Six players made a team-leading five tackles, including redshirt-senior Kerry Wynn and redshirt-junior Evan Kelly led the dominating defensive line at the defensive and nose tackle positions. Wynn had two quarterback hurries, one that led to an interception for senior linebacker Walt Sparks and 1.5 tackles for loss in the win.
“To have a good defense, you need the defensive lineman to play well,” Wynn said.
VMI head coach Sparky Woods noted the Spiders defensive line for playing well and being tough for his team to block. Richmond head coach Danny Rocco said his defense was “extremely encouraging,” stressing the difficulty of shutting a team out, especially considering the storm delay at halftime.
On offense, the passing game did more than enough to win with quarterback Michael Strauss throwing 23 completions in 36 attempts for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Strauss started the opening drive 7 for 8 with a seven-yard touchdown pass to halfback Jacobi Green.
The Richmond offensive line gave Strauss plenty of time to get the ball to his receivers, as nine different Spiders recorded a catch.
Preseason All-American Ben Edwards led the team with seven catches for 95 yards, including a career-long 59-yard touchdown reception to put the Spiders up 21-0 going into halftime. Redshirt-junior and preseason all-conference receiver Stephen Barnette finished with six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Even though the passing attack was solid overall, Rocco noted some errors in Strauss’ and the receivers’ multiple moments of looking out of sync. Strauss’ timing was off on a few plays and he threw an interception on an overthrown pass, while a few key drops took away at least one touchdown.
“We really didn’t play real well on offense,” Rocco said. “We were very inconsistent. We didn’t really have our rhythm.”
Despite preseason concerns about the running game with back Kendall Gaskins graduating last season, the Spiders’ backfield-by-committee showed promise with 226 net yards. Green led the team with 8 runs totaling 95 yards while showing some home run ability with a 53 yard run in the third quarter. Halfback T.J. Moon, fullback Seth Fisher and quarterback David Broadus all showed power running ability with Moon gaining 44 yards in 7 carries, Fisher 29 in 6, and Broadus 31 in 5. Edwards had 32 yards on 5 carries for a total of 152 all-purpose yards against the Keydets.
Rocco had previously expressed some questions about his kicking game early in training camp, but the special teams unit answered in the opening game of the season. Placekicker Brandon Jordi was perfect hitting both his field goals from 29 yards and 38 yards out and going 4 for 4 on extra-point kicks. Both Broadus and senior Joe Gulli Jr got punting opportunities with Gulli averaging 43 yards on his two kicks and Broadus 27 on his one.
Rocco got his second string some early season experience in the fourth quarter as true freshman Kyle Lauletta split time with Broadus at quarterback at the top of the list of changes. Lauletta finished six for nine with 48 yards and a ten yard touchdown pass to tight end Hunter Westfall for Richmond’s final score.
The Spiders next game is against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday at 6 p.m.
Contact staff writer Jeremy Day at firstname.lastname@example.org