The Collegian
Friday, February 23, 2024

Richmond suffers 16-0 loss at U.Va.

Tailback Josh Vaughan (32) and quarterback Eric Ward (11).
Tailback Josh Vaughan (32) and quarterback Eric Ward (11).

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The biggest obstacle preventing the Richmond football team from beating the University of Virginia on Saturday was the Spiders' failure to score.

"If the spider has eight legs, I think we shot ourselves all eight times," coach Mike London said at a post-game press conference. "It's a shame the outcome was what it was, but it was a learning experience, and these guys will learn from it, and I'm really proud of them."

The Spiders lost 16-0 at Virginia, but Virginia's lead was 3-0 for much of the game.

This game was an important one for the Spiders, not only because the players wanted to play a Bowl Championship Series team, but because London was an assistant coach at Virginia from 2001-2004 and 2006-2007.

"I'm disappointed we lost a game," London said, "but at the same time I have established relationships with those players and coaches that are life-long relationships, and you can't shorten that off. I'm disappointed for us, and I'm happy for them."

The Cavaliers had possession for 10 minutes and 36 seconds of the first quarter and took the ball all the way to Richmond's one-yard line on its first drive of the game. Tackles from Collin McConaghy and Derek Hatcher and an incomplete pass pushed the Cavaliers back to the 8-yard line.

Instead of going for a touchdown on a fourth down, Yannik Reyering completed a 26-yard field goal attempt with not sure 6 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the first quarter to give Virginia its first points of the game.

On another fourth down, with 49 seconds remaining in the first half, Virginia had the ball on Richmond's 15-yard line with two yards to go for a first down. Cavaliers coach Al Groh took his second timeout of the quarter to set up a play.

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Sophomore linebacker Jordan Shoop intercepted Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich's pass and returned it 63 yards to Virginia's 24-yard line. Groh took another timeout, and when play resumed the Spiders had 37 seconds left in the half to try to tie the game or take the lead.

Junior quarterback Eric Ward's two-yard rush and 10-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Tre Gray put Richmond on Virginia's 12-yard line for Andrew Howard's 29-yard field goal attempt, his first of the season.

Howard, who completed 15 of 22 attempted field goals last season, missed this one wide right and the Spiders headed to the locker room losing 3-0.

"This was a great experience," Richmond junior wide receiver Jordan Mitchell said. "I think that, if nothing else, it shows us no matter whose team it is, I-A or I-AA or whatever division, we can go toe- to-toe with anyone in the country."

At the end of the first big drive of the second half, the Spiders again ended up on Virginia's 12-yard line, bringing in Andrew Howard on the fourth down to attempt another 29-yard field goal. Virginia nose tackle Nick Jenkins blocked the kick, and brought the Virginia offense on the field to try to extend its lead.

Two plays later, junior defensive back David Horton intercepted Lalich's pass and ran out of bounds at the Virginia 43-yard line. The Spiders, who completed one of 12 attempted third-down conversions, were unable to get past Virginia's 39-yard line on that drive and finished another quarter with a 3-0 score.

"They're a BCS school and we're an FCS school and everybody thought we'd get clobbered and, for a really long time, we really held on," London said. "We're going to play a BCS school every year, the guys always look forward to doing that, and if we can compete like we did today, then I wouldn't sell us short."

It wasn't until the third quarter that the Virginia offense started to wear down the Richmond defense. Virginia tailback Mikell Simpson's touchdown midway through the fourth quarter gave them a 10-0 lead, but the Spiders offense wasn't finished yet.

A 10-yard rush from Ward gave the Spiders a first down on Virginia's five-yard line, but two downs later, Richmond was on the 15-yard line. Last week, Ward said that he would have to be prepared for Virginia's pass rush, and half of his six sacks came during the fourth quarter.

Ward, who had re-entered the game despite suffering an injury, was intercepted for the first time this season on his pass into the end zone, and Virginia cornerback Chase Minnifield returned the ball to the Cavaliers' 28-yard line.

The next time the Richmond offense took the field, Ward threw another interception, this time to Virginia cornerback Vic Hall, who returned it 60 yards for the Cavaliers' second touchdown of the game.

"We had plenty of opportunities to have the ball on the inside," Richmond senior offensive lineman Tim Silver said. "We just need to capitalize on those opportunities, and we thought that we would be able to do that. The longer we hung in, the more and more excited they got about the team."

The Spiders are now 1-1 this season and will play Towson University at 3 p.m. on Saturday at home. Towson was the only Colonial Athletic Association team the Spiders lost to last season.

Contact staff writer Barrett Neale at barrett.neale@richmond.edu

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