Looking at the stats from the past two weeks, it's hard to ask the Richmond defense to improve. But that hasn't stopped Richmond coach Latrell Scott from demanding more from his defense.
"We've given up 10 points the past two weeks, so we're trying to figure out if they can shut somebody out," Scott said.
Coming into the season, the defense was expected to be one of Richmond's strengths. But a combination of inexperienced players at some positions and missed tackles led to opposing teams averaging more than 400 yards per game through the first four games of the season.
The past two weeks that average has been cut to about 220 yards. Part of the reason for the early season struggles may have been caused by the adjustments to first-year defensive coordinator Bob Trott's system.
"Some of [the younger players], it's been a few years since they've actually played in a game,"senior linebacker Eric McBride said. "So they got adjusted to it, Coach Trott got adjusted to how we fit in his schemes and I think we're working better with Coach Trott and his defensive schemes."
The defense could not have picked a better time to play its best football. Two weeks ago at the University of New Hampshire, quarterback Aaron Corp injured his knee on the first series of the game and forced third-string quarterback and punter Nick Hicks into the game. Hicks then got injured and freshman Montel White had to start at quarterback last week at the University of Massachusetts.
The defense has responded to the challenge by not only shutting down the other team, but also creating turnovers. At UNH, the defense forced two fumbles (recovered one) and forced three turnovers against UMass. So far this season, the defense has forced 12 turnovers, evenly split between interceptions and fumbles.
Last week, the defense forced the turnovers at crucial times in the game. Junior Tremayne Graham picked off UMass quarterback Kyle Havens in the endzone after a Richmond fumble had given the Minutemen -- already up 7-2 at the time -- the ball at the Richmond 35-yard line.
In the third quarter, sophomore Doug Howell forced a fumble by Anthony Nelson after a Tyler Kirchoff fumble had given UMass the ball at the Richmond 38-yard line. The final fumble occurred on a strip-sack by McBride which led to a Spider field goal to cut the Minutemen lead to 7-5.
Although McBride said that there was no one play that sparked this defensive turnaround, a natural turning-point would by Patrick Weldon's interception in the endzone against Coastal Carolina to help win that game. The defense responded in that game with two more interceptions by cornerback Justin Rogers and then has continued that dominance into its next two games against UNH and UMass.
With a 1-5 Towson team coming into Robins Stadium this Saturday, maybe it's time for the defense to post that shutout.
• The official dedication of Robins Stadium will take place on Saturday. It is also Homecoming for the Spiders, and they are 40-33-6 all-time on Homecoming games.
• White will get to the start again for Richmond as Corp is out for the year, backup John Laub is still out with a broken wrist and Hicks is still injured. White threw the ball just six times last week but Scott said that he hopes to "add a little more to his plate this week."
• Last week's win kept the Spiders in the Sports Network/Fathead.com Top-25 poll for the 47th consecutive week. They are ranked No. 16 this week.
• Richmond is 4-2 all-time against Towson and has won the last two by a combined score of 87-28.