1) Response to NC State Loss – Richmond’s players looked pretty down following their close loss to North Carolina State last week. After losing such a close game, I’m sure the players have been waiting all week to get on the field and get back in the win column. Given the experience and winning mentality this team has, I expect a fast start from the Spiders this week.
2) Injuries – WR Ben Edwards and OL Nick Ritcher suffered injuries during the NC State game that will keep them out this week. Both players are certainly losses for the Spiders, but I expect other players will step up and contribute in the open positions. QB Michael Strauss said Shane Savage, Edwards’ replacement, have played well in practice this week. Strauss said Richmond had a deep offensive line and he was “not worried about those guys up front.” These injuries, especially Ritcher’s more serious injury, shouldn’t be a big factor this week but could be a greater factor once Richmond begins conference play.
3) Rocco v. Gardner-Webb – Richmond faced Gardner-Webb last season for the first time in the school’s history, but Danny Rocco has more experience against the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Rocco coached Liberty to five victories in six games against Gardner-Webb before coming to Richmond and led the Spiders to a 41-8 victory last year. This will be Richmond’s first-ever trip to Coach Norman Harris Field, but for Rocco, this game could bring back memories to his days in the Big South Conference.
Keys to a Spider Victory:
1) The D-line – Rocco has said he’s been very pleased with the way the defense has played this year, and as I have said all year, Richmond’s defense starts with the line. Kerry Wynn played great against NC State, and Evan Kelly and BJ Scott have played well in their first two games. The defensive line has struggled getting the quarterback on the ground, but it has consistently forced opposing quarterbacks out of the pocket. If the pressure continues, sacks will come. Another strong performance from the D-line this week will make it very difficult for Gardner-Webb to get points on the board.
2) Michael Strauss – Strauss has lit it up so far this season. Last week’s first-half performance when he threw for over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns against an ACC defense could have very well been the best half of his career. If Strauss can play anywhere near that well this week, I can’t see how the Spiders would lose.
1) Jacobi Greene Runs for over 100 Yards – I have been critical of Greene’s play so far this season. I see Saturday as the day Greene will prove to critics, like myself, that Richmond’s running game will be fine this year. I thought Greene showed some real strong flashes against NC State, even if the stats didn’t reflect it. I expect Greene will use his quickness and elusiveness to break the line and get into the secondary against the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
2) Shane Savage leads all Receivers in Receptions – Savage will have the opportunity to fill Edwards’ role for the second consecutive week. Savage, who had seven receptions against NC State, looked great catching a variety of short passes and screens. I expect Savage’s success to continue this week, especially considering Richmond is up against a weaker defense.
3) Final Score: 31-7 Richmond – Had Richmond beat NC State, I would have given Gardner-Webb a better chance because I could have seen Richmond looking past the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Richmond’s heart-breaking loss eliminates practically any shot of a lackadaisical performance from the Spiders. I expect Richmond to come out of the gates fast and not have much difficulty defeating Gardner-Webb.