1) Rocco v. Liberty – Richmond head coach Danny Rocco will be facing his former school for the first time since taking over at Richmond last season. Rocco, who inherited a team that went 1-10 in its previous season when he took the job at Liberty, led Liberty to four conference championships in his six years as head coach. I’m sure Saturday will be an emotional day for Rocco, but his current team will garner his full attention as Richmond is faltering and desperately needs a win.
2) Injuries – Injuries have already plagued the Spiders this season. Sam Roller is the most recent addition to the injury list, but Ben Edwards, who missed last week’s game, should be back in action against Liberty. The Spiders cannot afford any more injuries before conference play as multiple players have already gone down and will miss extended periods of time.
3) Bounce back from Gardner-Webb – The Spiders lost their last two games, one as the favorite and one as the underdog, on last second field goals. I fully expected Richmond to comeback strong after the NC State lose, yet the Spiders looked sluggish in their loss at Gardner-Webb. Following these two disappointing losses, Richmond’s back is against the wall. The 1st quarter of the Liberty game will say a lot about this Richmond football team as it looks to move in a positive direction.
Keys to a Spider Victory:
1) Stop the Running Game – Liberty’s offense, which has scored a combined 83 points in its past two games, is carried by its running game. In particular Clifton Richardson and Desmond Rice, who are averaging a combined 103 yards per game and have scored 7 touchdowns this year, have led the Flames’ offense. If Richmond can control the running game, it should put itself in a good position to win. Linebackers Aaron Roane and Eric Wright will be instrumental in stopping Liberty’s rushing attack.
2) Special Teams Play – A big reason why the Spiders lost to Gardner-Webb last week was because Richmond lost the special teams game. Gardner-Webb’s final drive, which included a 51-yard kickoff return in addition to the game-winning field goal, exemplified how big of a role special teams had on the outcome. Richmond’s Justin Grant, who was named a CAA 1st team player for his kick returning abilities, could help get Richmond’s better starting field position than it had a week ago.
3) Win the 1st Quarter – Gardner-Webb’s confidence seemed to grow throughout the game last week as the likelihood of them pulling off the upset grew. Richmond needs to win the 1st quarter for two reasons: to show it has put the past two weeks behind them and to prevent Liberty from gaining the same confidence Gardner-Webb had last week. If Richmond is behind by a score after the 1st quarter it won’t be the end of the world, but a strong 1st quarter would be big for the Spiders.
1) Strauss Attempts 45 or More Passes – Strauss has been called on to carry Richmond’s offense so far this season because the running game has been so poor, and I do not expect that to change this week. Strauss is already averaging 41 attempts per game this year, and last week’s dreadful performance running the ball adds even more pressure on Strauss to carry the offensive load. Look for Richmond to continue using short pass plays as replacements for handing the ball off.
2) Final Score: 38-13 Richmond – Richmond will be able to put last week’s performance behind them and defeat Liberty in a game that Richmond has control of in the 4th quarter.