The season opener for the University of Richmond and University of Virginia football teams this year will be one of mixed emotions.
Both squads take the field at 6 p.m. Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.com.
The biggest twist to the game plan goes far beyond past statistics and X's and O's. The coaching staff swap that occurred for both teams during December 2009 puts players, coaches and fans in an unusual position.
Virginia's new head coach is Mike London, the same Mike London that led Richmond to a 2008 Football Championship Subdivision National Championship. And the Spiders' new head coach, Latrell Scott, came from Virginia as its former wide receivers coach. Scott took the Richmond head coaching position only eight days after London left for Virginia.
"I think the players appreciated the time they spent with Coach London," Scott said. "But that's not to say that they don't want to beat him come Saturday, just like my former Virginia players want to beat me."
Scott is not the only former Cavalier on the coaching staff for the Spiders: seven current Richmond staffers have Virginia connections.
London has five current Virginia coaches with Richmond ties, including defensive coordinator Jim Reid, who was Richmond's head coach from 1995-2003.
London said during a teleconference Monday: "This is not another game.
"This is my alma mater. I spent years there as a player and as a coach. I won championships with that team."
Senior linebacker Patrick Weldon said he was going to try to play against Coach London's team just as he would against any other team.
"There is obviously going to be a lot of emotion along with this game since he was a big part of this team for the past two years," he said. "It is one of those emotions you can't really hide from, but then on game day, it doesn't matter who is on the opposite sideline. It's still a game and you're still trying to win and fight just as hard as the other team."
The Spiders are "committed to compete," according to Scott. In last season's opener, Richmond beat Atlantic Coast Conference foe Duke. University of Virginia has not only dropped its past four season openers, but last year the team lost the opener against an FCS opponent, the College of William & Mary. The Cavaliers also lost to Duke in ACC play. Richmond defeated William & Mary 13-10 last season.
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"Winning the season opener is always your goal because it gets you started off on the right foot," Scott said. "But if you have the chance to beat a BCS opponent, it's a big deal. Our main focus, no matter who it is, is to go out and win."
Scott also said that he wanted the Spider fans to be involved with the team, especially since the fan base continued to grow.
"We want the fans to be involved," Scott said. "And for students, we hope to see as much red as possible."
Weldon echoed Scott's desire for more fan involvement.
"We need the students to buy into the hype and to commit to coming out to our games," he said. "The biggest thing we can ask is to just come out and support us, and to stay longer than just the first half."
Senior defensive lineman Martin Parker said he and his teammates were ready to play again.
"We just want to show everybody that doubted us, that questioned our abilities as a team, that we have players on this team who they might not know about and who will step forward and come up and be great players in this conference," Parker said.
Senior running back Tyler Kirchoff and Parker, like Weldon, agreed that London did a lot of positive things for the program, but said it would still be an emotional game.
"We absolutely loved playing for Coach London and he did great things for the program," Kirchoff said. "It'll be good seeing him after the game, but we're not going to worry about who's on the other sideline."
Parker also said that the team would wait until after the game to greet their old coaches.
"It's not going to be a family atmosphere before the game, telling jokes and whatnot," Parker said. "We just want to prove that we have changed and become a better team."
Contact staff writer Amelia Vogler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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