A conference championship is so important to Jacobi Green that he decided to make it the screensaver on his phone.
He can change it now following Richmond’s 20-9 win over William & Mary on Saturday, which clinched the CAA for the Spiders and gave them an automatic playoff bid. Green played a huge part in the win, rushing for 218 yards and a touchdown, ripping off big chunks of yardage almost every time he touched the ball.
“We’ve faced some good backs this year and he’s right up there,” William & Mary head coach Jimmye Laycock said of Green. “He’s not one of those dancers, but he slides with the ball. I think he does a nice job of hitting a crease and maybe sliding in or sliding out and then accelerating.”
Richmond trailed 3-0 after the first quarter, but took the lead on a touchdown pass from Kyle Lauletta to Brian Brown and never forfeited it from that point on. After William & Mary kicked a field goal to make it a one-possession game at halftime, Green scampered into the end zone for a conference-leading 15th time this season at the beginning of the third quarter. The Tribe kicked another field goal to cut the deficit to five, but Richmond scored on its next possession to put the game out of reach for good.
Green was a key contributor to the Spiders’ win, but he didn’t do it by himself. All game, the Richmond offensive line both protected Lauletta and created holes for Green, and he made the most of every one.
“The William & Mary offensive line and the Richmond offensive line are the two best offensive lines in this league,” Richmond head coach Danny Rocco said. “Our offensive line is physical, prideful and smart.”
Another effect of Richmond’s strong rushing attack is that it forced William & Mary’s defense to plan for the run at the expense of pass coverage. Lauletta took full advantage of this, completing more than 60 percent of his passes and throwing two touchdowns. More importantly, he did a fine job managing the game and threw no interceptions after throwing eight in his last three games.
Richmond’s defensive line also played well, pressuring Tribe quarterback Steve Cluley all game, and causing him to throw three interceptions. He had only thrown two interceptions all year coming into this weekend. The Spider defense also did an excellent job containing William & Mary’s run game and the special teams didn’t let dangerous return man DeVonte Dedmon cause any damage.
For some Spiders, Saturday’s game helped them achieve impressive statistical milestones. David Jones recorded his eighth interception of the year, tying the school record. Brian Brown finished with 110 receiving yards in addition to his touchdown to increase his enormous lead for most receiving yards in the conference.
Most importantly, the Spiders secured an automatic playoff berth with the win. Rocco admitted after the game that he’d had a lot of nerves before this one.
“Heading into the back end of the year, knowing I had to go to New Hampshire, knowing I had to go to Villanova, I was a little worried about this matchup right here,” he said.
Richmond has now won its last four in a row against the Tribe. Today’s game was the 125th between the two teams, the longest rivalry in the South and the fourth-longest in the entire country.
The playoff selection will be announced tomorrow and regardless of how it pans out, Rocco has confidence in his squad despite the clutter of solid teams near the top of the CAA that Richmond barely beat out.
“Let’s make it very clear we earned our way in,” Rocco said. “I’ve got a good football team.”