The Collegian
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Quarterback pressure, seniors save game for Richmond

With about eight minutes left in the game, the University of Richmond was amidst another second-half meltdown with Coastal Carolina at Richmond's 2-yard line and trailing by eight. The only question seemed to be whether the Richmond defense would be able to stop a two-point try by Coastal Carolina.

But defensive lineman Chris Shields and linebacker Patrick Weldon prevented the Chanticleers from even attempting the two-point conversion.

Shields was able to pressure a scrambling Zach MacDowall and hit him right after MacDowall let go of the ball. The pass missed its target of tight end David Duran and was caught by Weldon in the back of the end zone.

"I don't think he saw the guy covering David man and tried to stick that thing in there," Chanticleer coach David Bennett said. "He made a great pick. Give Richmond credit; Richmond made a great play on the ball."

Said Richmond coach Latrell Scott: "It's a big play by a fifth-year senior. Patrick Weldon is one of the leaders of our football team."

That play energized what previously looked to be a tired Richmond defense for the rest of the game. Richmond had seen its 20-0 second-quarter lead whittled down to eight as behind a couple trick plays, including tailback's Jeremy Height's fourth-quarter touchdown pass.

Weldon wasn't the only fifth-year senior to make a crucial interception late in the game. After the Spiders went three-and-out after Weldon's interception, cornerback Justin Rogers made the first of his two interceptions.

The first interception followed the same game plan as Weldon's pick. Fifth-year senior Martin Parker applied the pressure to MacDowall this time and MacDowall's pass intended for Brandon Whitley ended up in Rogers' possession.

"The whole motto this week was 'If you can get pressure on them, the whole defense will play better,'" Rogers said. "Today, the guys did an exceptional job of getting in the quarterback's face and making him get rid of it."

The Spiders have shown flashes of pressuring the quarterback. Last week against Delaware, Parker was able to get behind the line of scrimmage on the first play of the game and deflected a pass that was intercepted by Weldon. On the second defensive series, linebacker Darius McMillan -- who missed the Coastal Carolina game with an injury -- sacked quarterback Pat Devlin and forced the Blue Hens to punt the ball.

But after those first two series, the Spider defense struggled to get pressure on Devlin and the Blue Hens were able to move the ball almost at will.

Getting pressure on the quarterback has been a struggle for Richmond since the 2008 National Championship year. That year, defensive ends Sherman Logan and Lawrence Sidbury, Jr. combined on 17 sacks and countless quarterback pressures. Last year, the defense recorded 21 sacks and with the one sack recorded against Coastal Carolina, Richmond has four sacks this year.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

Injuries and inexperience may have something to do with the limited pressure on the quarterback. The two projected starting defensive ends -- Brandon Scott and Kerry Wynn -- are freshmen and Wynn has not played since the season-opening game at the University of Virginia. Even if Wynn is playing, three of the four defensive line starters are new starters this year.

If the defensive line can continue to disrupt the quarterback like it did late in the fourth quarter against the Chanticleers, that will help Rogers and the fellow defensive backs make big plays.

"You got to thank them," Rogers said. "Everyone sees the plays we make in the back end, but they don't see the plays up front, getting in the quarterback's face even if they may not hit him or get a sack. Just that pressure gives you a little more time to cover a receiver and they did that today"

Support independent student media

You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.

Donate Now