The University of Richmond may have allowed the University of Delaware to score two defensive touchdowns, but the deciding factor of Saturday's game was offensive touchdowns -- the Spiders had four and the Blue Hens had none.
Delaware scored first on sophomore defensive back Tyrone Grant's 57-yard interception return -- the only Richmond opponent to do so since the University of New Hampshire's Czar Wiley on Oct. 12, 2002. But Richmond went on a 24-0 scoring run and won its last regular-season game at UR Stadium 31-14.
"The defense played well," Richmond coach Mike London said. "When it was time for the offense to move the chains and score points, they did a great job."
It was fitting that on Senior Day, three of the four Richmond players who scored touchdowns were seniors. Tight end Joe Stewart, who had a career-high 54 receiving yards, scored his 11th career touchdown on a 27-yard pass during the second quarter.
Fullback John Crone, who hadn't scored a touchdown during his first three years, scored his fifth of the season on a 6-yard run. Running back Josh Vaughan -- with a career-high 40 carries -- scored his 28th career rushing touchdown during the last minute of the first half.
"Josh has proven since [the game against Virginia Military Institute] that he's one of the best running backs in the conference, if not the nation," London said. "The number of carries is not as significant as putting the ball in our playmaker's hands."
Vaughan had 156 rushing yards, the first time since the team's game against James Madison University on Oct. 11 that he didn't set a career high in that category.
"You never go into a game knowing exactly what to expect," Vaughan said. "It was definitely a complete effort."
The rest of the team's scoring came from juniors: Kicker Andrew Howard converted a 43-yard field goal and all the point-after-touchdown attempts, and quarterback Eric Ward scored the team's fourth touchdown. Ward had 77 rushing yards, just four short of the career-high he set during last season's 62-56 win at Delaware.
"Eric has been very efficient in moving the offense and moving the chains," London said, mentioning a crucial third-down conversion when Ward pushed his way out of bounds past the first-down marker. "It's the mentality he has that I think our players thrive on."
But it wasn't just on offense that seniors made important plays. Defensive back Brooks York recovered an on-side kick during the fourth quarter to give Richmond possession after it had taken a 17-point lead, its biggest of the game.
Defensive end Sherman Logan had seven tackles, second only to sophomore linebacker Jordan Shoop's eight, and 2.5 tackles for a loss, which led the team.
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"I just think that their defensive line played more physical than we did from the first quarter to the fourth quarter," Delaware senior center Kheon Hendricks said. "I felt like we were dying to get a first down."
Delaware's total offense was 53 yards, which is an all-time low in school history for both the Delaware offense and the Richmond defense. Delaware didn't have a first down until the end of the second quarter, and had only three the entire game, compared with the Spiders' 23 first downs.
"The best thing coach London did when he got here was keep his defensive coordinator," Delaware coach K. C. Keeler said about Russ Huesman, who is in his fifth year at Richmond.
The Blue Hens had lost six defensive linemen during the last two weeks and Keeler said two of their wide receivers, senior Aaron Love and junior Mark Duncan, left the game with injuries. Richmond had possession for 42 minutes, 3 seconds of the 60-minute game, and Keeler said he had to use timeouts during the first half to rest the defense.
"We had two scores with no time of possession and they're back on the field," Keeler said about the defensive touchdowns. "Thanks for scoring, but you have to back out and play."
Keeler said he expected to have problems against Spiders senior defensive linemen Lawrence Sidbury Jr. and Logan, whom he called two of the best in the country at their positions. But he said the Blue Hens offense had missed assignments, had lost some of its poise and had struggled against the Richmond pass rush.
"Offensively, I need answers," Keeler said. "That's not the way Delaware plays offense."
Sophomore linebacker Patrick Weldon, who had four tackles and an interception, said the defense had had great chemistry during the game.
"I hope it's not the high-water mark," Weldon said. "The season's not over yet. We want the chemistry to keep getting better. We came out with the idea that we're not going to give up any inches on defense."
Keeler said Delaware had had trouble running the ball against the Spiders. Blue Hens senior Kervin Michaud, who usually plays wide receiver, was listed as a running back on Saturday and led the team with 20 rushing yards on nine carries.
"It was the most frustrating game I've ever had in my life," Michaud said.
Keeler pointed out that Michaud and the other seniors have one game left in their collegiate careers. That is also a possibility for Richmond's 12 seniors -- defensive lineman Nicholas Battle, Crone, quarterback Will Healy, Logan, offensive lineman Evan Lehner, tight end Joe Monteverde, Sidbury, offensive lineman Tim Silver, Stewart, Vaughan, fullback Shawn White and York.
In addition to the pre-game ceremony for them, former Richmond coach Jim Tait was honored during halftime. York, his grandson, joined him, their family and some of Tait's former players on the field.
With Saturday's win, Richmond, which was ranked seventh in the Sports Network poll, is now 8-3 and 5-2 in Colonial Athletic Association games. The Spiders will play the final game of their regular season at the College of William & Mary on Saturday.
The Spiders and the Tribe football players are competing not only for one of the 16 Football Championship Subdivision playoff spots, but also for second place in the CAA South. They are currently in a three-way tie with Villanova University, which will play at Delaware on Saturday, for second place.
William & Mary, which is 7-3 overall and 5-2 in conference games, was No. 12 in the Sports Network rankings before it lost to No. 1 James Madison, 48-24, on Saturday. James Madison is first in the CAA South and the FCS.
"When we played JMU they were still ranked No. 1 in the country," junior offensive lineman Michael Silva said. "We had to rebuild. ... We're peaking at the right time."
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