What a day Saturday was for Jacobi Green and the Richmond Spiders.
After 12,000 fans showed up at James Madison University for what analyst Desmond Howard told me was “by far” the best College GameDay ever, after Lee Corso walked out of Wilson Hall dressed as James Madison and declared that the Dukes shall defeat Richmond, after a record 26,069 fans packed Bridgeforth Stadium to watch the invincible Vad Lee stomp the Spiders, Green led Richmond to the 59-49 win.
With 236 yards and five touchdowns—both career highs, obviously—no one was better than Green on Saturday.
“Jacobi Green, I really don’t have words to describe what I witnessed out there today,” Richmond coach Danny Rocco said. “Jacobi came to me all week long and said, ‘Coach, I got your back.’ And he did.”
As powerful as he was, though, Green did not score 59 points by himself. He actually touched the ball on just 28 of Richmond’s 78 offensive plays. And he did gain 250 total yards running and catching, but the Spiders gained 470 more yards without him, giving them a school-record 720 yards in the game.
Quarterback Kyle Lauletta, as overshadowed as his game may have seemed, played exceptionally smooth for Richmond. His 415 yards (on just 19 completions, that’s 22 yards per completion) were a career high as well, and his ability to avoid turnovers, extend plays and find Brian Brown and Reggie Diggs was crucially important for the Spiders to keep up with and ultimately outduel the previously undefeated Dukes.
Brown’s day was particularly frustrating for James Madison fans, as he seemed to be wide open on every third down play and made catches for huge chunks of yards all game. His longest was a 79-yard touchdown off an underthrown ball from Lauletta where Brown adjusted to hold off the defender and bail out his quarterback.
“Brian Brown on that one long touchdown… It was really a duck and he just went and got it,” Lauletta said. “Time and time again those guys come through.”
The offensive line play for Richmond was a major reason why Lauletta had time to throw so many deep passes, why he was sacked only once and why Green had the game of his career.
“Offensive line was superb,” Rocco said. “I mean just physical, they protected our quarterback, he had confidence back there. We were able to let the routes unfold.”
To James Madison’s credit, the Dukes were similarly unstoppable on offense, gaining 585 yards and scoring 49 points of their own. Lee ran for three touchdowns and threw for two before leaving the game late with an apparent foot injury, but his absence didn’t appear to affect the outcome, because backup Bryan Schor was able to lead two scoring drives.
The Spiders kept the ball from Lee as much as possible, holding a 15-minute advantage in time of possession. They still allowed his offense to put up big numbers, but Rocco was pleased with his defense for making the Dukes work for every yard.
“We got smoked so bad last year, we were not gonna let that happen,” Rocco said. “They couldn’t wear us out. We forced them to have to execute their offense.”
On the other side, Dukes coach Everett Withers said his team didn’t play well despite nearly 50 points and 600 yards of offense.
“The bottom line, that team was better than us on offense than we were on defense,” Withers said. “They beat our ass.”
A few players appeared to suffer unfortunate and severe injuries for both teams. JMU’s John Miller was carted off and taken to a University of Virginia hospital, Withers said, with what looked like a neck or spine injury. Richmond’s David Herlocker also looked as if he had a head or neck injury after not moving for a few moments, but he eventually made his way off the field.
Running back Seth Fisher did not play because of an ankle injury, which opened the door for Green to have the type of performance he did, and quarterback David Broadus did play despite being suspended indefinitely earlier in the season for a violation of athletic department policy.
The Spiders, now 6-1, move into first place in the CAA at 4-0 with this win. Richmond will host Albany for Homecoming next weekend on its quest for a CAA championship.
“When I first came, all I ever really talked about was winning the conference championship,” Rocco said. “I talk to my kids all time about, ‘Gotta compete for the conference championship.’ That’s what we want to be able to do.”
Contact Sports Editor Charlie Broaddus at firstname.lastname@example.org