Richmond wide receiver Jordan Mitchell knew exactly how to beat Maine's defenders when they started playing 12 yards off him: one quick move to the sideline.
That's all it took for him to get open for an 87-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Eric Ward, a play that tied for the second-longest scoring play in school history and was part of a 44-17 Richmond victory against the University of Maine Saturday at home in front of more than 8,000 people.
"It was a play we saw all week in practice," Mitchell, a redshirt junior, said of Maine's defensive coverage right before the reception, which led to the game's first touchdown.
Mitchell earned a career-high 139 reception yards off four catches and scored two touchdowns. Ward, meanwhile, completed 16 of 25 passes for three touchdowns and achieved a career-high 273 yards. The win increased Richmond's home winning streak to eight games, the nation's seventh-longest.
Mitchell has been somewhat overshadowed by the success of redshirt sophomore Kevin Grayson, the team's No. 1 receiver. But Saturday Grayson was double-covered most of the day, allowing Mitchell to take advantage.
"Jordan has just shown today that he is capable of breaking a tackle and running away from people," coach Mike London said. "Jordan does deserve a lot praise for this game. He did a terrific job, even blocking. ... He's been a complete player for us."
The emergence of Mitchell as a big-play receiver adds another weapon to an offense that has struggled to find consistency this season. The Spiders are only ranked ninth in total offense in the Colonial Athletic Association and are seventh in scoring offense.
The team had some trouble scoring touchdowns when near the goal line -- something London says the team needs to resolve.
"We want touchdowns out of that area," he said. "We got penalties. We got pushed back. That's something we have to work on every week."
The score was 13-10 at halftime, but during the second half the team's offense improved tremendously.
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Mitchell was not the only receiver who had a notable performance. Redshirt freshman Tre Gray caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Ward with 12:07 left in the game for his first collegiate touchdown. And backup quarterback Will Healy, a redshirt senior, played for part of the fourth quarter and scored on a 12-yard run to cap the Spiders' scoring for the game.
Meanwhile, junior kicker Andrew Howard ended his field goal slump, helping the Spiders by making three during the game.
The Spider defense also remained strong as in previous weeks, allowing the Black Bears only 44 rushing yards the entire game, part of 273 yards of total offense for the team. Richmond's rush defense is the best in the CAA and No. 10 in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Redshirt sophomore defensive back Justin Rogers returned another interception for a touchdown, giving the Spider defense nine interceptions for the season, which leads the NCAA. Rogers, last week's CAA Defensive Player of the Week, has returned an interception for a touchdown each of the last two weeks.
Richmond coaches prepared players by showing them plays the opposing team used frequently, Rodgers said. He said the play where he intercepted the ball was one of them.
The Spiders are now 3-1 overall and 2-0 against teams from the CAA. The team ranks No. 2 in The Sports Network's poll and No. 3 in the FCS Coaches Poll.
Richmond will face another tough opponent when it plays No. 19 Villanova at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Philadelphia. The Spiders beat Villanova 35-27 last year during homecoming weekend.
Contact reporter Stephen Utz at firstname.lastname@example.org
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