Last year, quarterback Sean Schaefer threw the game-winning touchdown after a 67-yard, four-play drive, taking just 22 seconds to help Towson University beat Richmond for the second straight year.
This year, it was the Richmond defense's turn to score fourth-quarter touchdowns. Schaefer, a senior, spent the end of this year's game on the sidelines after having thrown four interceptions, which he hadn'
t done since the first game of his collegiate career.
"It's always rewarding to get an in-conference win against a good team," senior running back Josh Vaughan said. "They had gotten us the last two years so it was good to get a little payback."
Freshman Blair Peterson replaced Schaefer after Richmond's sophomore cornerback Justin Rogers returned Schaefer'
s fourth interception 68 yards for a touchdown, but Peterson threw an interception of his own to junior free safety Derek Hatcher. Hatcher returned it 25 yards, giving the Spiders the sixth and final touchdown of their 45-14 win.
"It was a total team effort," Vaughan said. "Coach London emphasized finishing. We made sure we got it in the end zone."
Unlike last week, the Richmond offense was able to take advantage of its scoring opportunities. It was the first time Richmond had scored more than 40 points since last year'
s five-overtime 62-56 win at the University of Delaware.
"What jumps out is obviously our offense responded in a lot of situations," London said. "The second half, I thought the defense played unbelievably ... to score twice on defense I think is phenomenal."
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The two interceptions Rogers and Hatcher each had were career highs for both of them, but offensive players had some firsts, too. Senior fullback John Crone, who suffered injuries the last two years, scored his first career rushing touchdown to give the Spiders a 7-0 lead.
"Initially, I was like, 'Eric, you sure that's the right play?'" said Crone, who hadn't had any rushing yards during his sophomore or junior seasons. "Ultimately, I'm more healthy now than I've ever been and the coaches utilize me a little more."
Towson had the chance to tie the score during the second quarter, after Schaefer'
s first touchdown pass of the game brought his career passing-yards total to more than 9,000.
Richmond junior running back Justin Forte fumbled the ball and Towson recovered it on Richmond'
s 27-yard line. But London said the players were willing to pick up after each other.
"Their guys kept cramping up and our guys just kept rolling and rolling," London said. "
What stands out is that these guys are resilient. Brandon Hourigan does a great job preparing them and our strength-and-conditioning and training-room guys do a good job.
"It was one of those games that if you keep going, you keep grinding, that something was going to crack."
Junior cornerback David Horton intercepted Schaefer'
s pass in the end zone and about four minutes later, Crone caught the ball in the other end zone for his second touchdown of the game, giving Richmond a 21-7 lead.
"That was definitely a statement kind of drive," Crone said. "We needed it. Last week, we didn't finish, we didn't block very well, we didn't play very good football on the offensive side. This week, we worked on that in practice and it showed in the game."
One constant from the Virginia game was the Richmond defense'
s interceptions. The Spiders, who had 10 interceptions during the entire 2007 season, are leading the NCAA with eight interceptions in their three games this season.
"It was a big change from last year," Rogers said about the Richmond defense. "
We broke down film from last year and scouted ourselves.
"A lot of the things they did last year, we knew they were going to try to do it again, and we wanted to take that away."
The game was also important for junior kicker Andrew Howard, whose first field goal attempt of the game was blocked, as were his two against the University of Virginia the week before.
He completed his second attempt of the game, a 38-yard field goal. That field goal and his six extra-point kicks brought his career point total to 180, eight shy of Rob Courter'
s school scoring record for a kicker set from 1987 to 1990.
Howard also converted all six points after touchdown attempts, making him 102-102 during his career. Howard holds the NCAA Football Champpionship Subdivision record for career PAT-attempt accuracy.
During last year's game against Towson, 15 of Richmond's 21 points came during the fourth quarter. This year, Richmond scored 21 points during the fourth quarter alone off of Forte's five-yard rushing touchdown and Rogers' and Hatcher'
s interceptions returned for touchdowns.
"I told [Rogers], you get one more, you tie myself and coach [Scott] Burton's record for three in a game," London said. "Justin got it in the second half. His instincts took over and then his legs took over after that. I was happy for him more than anything else."
London said he did have some concerns about mental mistakes the team was making, such as the unsportsmanlike penalties on Hatcher and sophomore wide receiver Kevin Grayson for excessive celebration. The Spiders' five penalties cost them 55 yards, compared to Towson'
s four penalties for 34 total yards.
"We have an expectation of winning," London said. "When you don't do things that are going to continue to help you win, then you have some concern. We're not anointed because of what we did last year. We have to earn every win; we're taking it a game at a time."
Richmond is now 2-1 overall and 1-0 in conference play heading into Saturday's family weekend home game against the University of Maine Black Bears, who are unranked. The series between the Spiders and the Black Bears is currently tied at 10-10, but the two teams haven'
t played since 2005.
The Spiders also increased their home winning streak to seven consecutive games, dating back to the beginning of last season.
"One of our No. 1 goals is to win at home," Crone said. "When you have a team with the talent we have, winning at home is very, very important."
Richmond is now ranked second in the Sports Network poll and third in the CSN Coaches'
pool. Five Colonial Athletic Assocation teams are ranked in the top 10, which London said was a testament to the talented teams Richmond would have to beat to repeat as CAA champions.
"We're going to do the same thing every week, just go out and treat every game like it's a playoff game," Vaughan said on Saturday. "That's what we did today and we're going to do the same thing next week"
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