Earlier this week, Richmond football coach Danny Rocco said he expected his team's Homecoming game against No. 13 Villanova to be close.
The Spiders turned the lights out early on Villanova (yes, the lights actually turned off before the game ended) and gave a rowdy Robins Stadium crowd exactly what it came to see — a convincing win over a ranked conference opponent. Richmond's well-rounded team was just that on Saturday, as the defense shut out the Wildcats and the offense steadily widened the lead in the 23–0 win.
During halftime, David Rhodes and Jihyun Lee were named Homecoming King and Queen.
Before and after those festivities, Richmond executed an ideal offensive performance, starting the scoring with a 56-yard touchdown catch from senior receiver Brian Brown and grinding the clock during the fourth quarter with the run game.
"Coming into the game we knew that their safeties play low," Brown said of his touchdown. "We saw it early. They stayed true to what they put on the film, and we executed."
Quarterback Kyle Lauletta completed 17 passes for 218 yards, a solid day for most FCS quarterbacks but a typical game for Lauletta, who has developed into one of the league's most prolific passers. Brown, his favorite target, finished with seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.
"[Brown] draws a lot of attention," Rocco said. "We get the ball to Brian in a lot of situations, a lot of key situations, but sometimes he's out there occupying defenders and really the intent is to go the other way. He's really enjoying an exceptional senior season."
The Spiders were equally impressive on defense. Villanova's starting quarterback Zach Bednarczyk suffered what appeared to be a concussion in the first quarter, Wildcat coach Andy Talley said, and was taken out of the game at the end of the second quarter. Talley said Bednarczyk's absence hurt his offense.
Talley appeared to be right. Led by senior Winston Craig (1.5 sacks), junior Brandon Waller (1.5 sacks) and sophomore Justin Rubin (one interception and one fumble recovery), the Richmond defense kept the Villanova offense out-of-sync and took the ball away three times.
"It's hard, first of all, to stop a team from scoring, period," safety Jevaris Little said. "Shutouts don't come by too easy."
Little, a senior transfer from Illinois, got more playing time Saturday after his longtime friend David Jones suffered a broken forearm a week ago.
"I love David to death," Little said. "When I stepped foot on this campus, he taught me the defense inside and out. When he went down, to me it's just next man up."
This was a much-needed comfortable win for Richmond, which has played two close conference games in a row. Two weeks ago, the Spiders narrowly beat Towson at home and last weekend, they took three overtimes to beat Albany on the road.
Rocco said "we'll find out" if this win does anything for his team's confidence and momentum.
"I think it's a pretty good score against a really good team in a really big game," Rocco said.
The Spiders, now 6–1 (3–1) in the CAA, will travel to Elon next Saturday.
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