University of Richmond's football team has traveled about 8,000 miles over the past two weeks. The players spent this week studying for and completing final exams. Their coach, Danny Rocco, has been vocal about potentially leaving Richmond after this season.
All of those potential distractions showed in the Spiders' 38–0 loss to Eastern Washington in a snowy FCS quarterfinal game Saturday. Richmond was unusually sloppy and, for the first time all season, did not appear to have the talent or energy to win. The loss marks the first time the Spiders have been shut out since Rocco became the team's coach five years ago.
Playing without multiple All-Americans including quarterback Kyle Lauletta, the Spiders were unable to match the Eagles' power or speed on both offense and defense. Backup quarterback Kevin Johnson, who made the noble decision to forgo his redshirt season to replace Lauletta for the playoffs, struggled mightily as he was sacked six times and continually missed open receivers. His fellow backfield partner, redshirt freshman running back Deontez Thompson, could not find holes to run through and appeared to have trouble with his footing because of the snow.
Richmond turned the ball over five times, including four fumbles in the first half. Much of those issues appeared to be the snowy conditions, which Eastern Washington was clearly more prepared to handle. Eagles defender Samson Ebukam caused disruption as well, recording four tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and two sacks.
Business operated as usual on offense for the Eagles, who gained 451 yards and scored 38 points. Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp was the offensive star of the game, as he gained 128 receiving yards to pass Jerry Rice for the most career receiving yards in NCAA history.
For Richmond, this may be the end of a historical era. Rocco's future at the school is uncertain after he's led the team to three straight FCS quarterfinals appearances and three CAA titles in his five seasons.
Rocco met with Richmond President Ronald Crutcher last week to discuss his job and the school's vision for the football program, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Before that meeting, which Rocco said went well, it seemed likely he would leave the Spiders, potentially to become the head coach at CAA foe Delaware.
The loss also marks the end of prolific receiver Brian Brown's career. He finished ranked eighth all-time in FCS history with more than 4,200 receiving yards, and he will likely get an opportunity to extend his career as a professional.
Eastern Washington moves on to face Youngstown State in the FCS semifinals. James Madison will play five-time reigning champion North Dakota State in the other semifinal game.
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