The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Game Preview: Richmond vs. Rhode Island

For one last time, the seniors for the University of Richmond will put on the home jersey on Saturday against the University of Rhode Island.

At about 1:40 p.m. on Saturday (20 minutes before kickoff), 11 seniors will be recognized in a pregame ceremony.

"It's definitely going to be one of those days that you'll remember forever," senior linebacker Patrick Weldon said. "I think it might be emotional for my parents and that's probably when I'll get emotional, if my mom starts to get a little emotional."

Ten of those that will be honored have started at least one game this year and three of them — defensive tackle Martin Parker, linebacker Eric McBride and cornerback Justin Rogers — are on the Buck Buchanon list for the best defensive player in the FCS.

This senior class is one win away from tying last year's seniors as the winningest class in school history. A win on Saturday also clinches a winning record for the Spiders for the sixth-straight season which would tie a school record set from 1916-1922.

A number of players that will be honored played a crucial role in bringing Richmond's its only national championship in any sport. Parker, McBride, Rogers, Weldon, center Drew Lachenmayer and wide receiver Kevin Grayson were all starters on the 2008 Spider team that won the national championship. Tailback Tyler Kirchoff played in 13 games that year while linebacker Tyler Sullivan started the first eight games that year before missing the rest of the season with an injury.

On an individual level, these players have left a lasting impression on the program.

McBride has started the past 52 games and is two tackles away from moving into second on Richmond's all-time tackling list. Rogers set the Colonial Athletic Association record for career kickoff return yards last week against James Madison University. Grayson is 113 yards away from breaking Leland Melvin's school record 2,669 receiving yards in a career.

Even though the other players have not set or nearly-set school records, they have had a big impact on the team this year. Kirchoff will live on in Richmond lore with his game-winning touchdown in overtime against Elon in the Robins Stadium opener.

Safety Max Prokell moved from wide receiver to safety in the preseason and has started every game this year and recorded 39 tackles.

Weldon and Sullivan have combined for 434 tackles in their career and have come up with big plays in two of Richmond's win this year. Weldon intercepted Coastal Carolina's Zach MacDowall in the endzone with eight minutes left in the game and Richmond up by eight points. Sullivan recorded a 14-yard sack last week against Drew Dudzik that took JMU out of field goal range in overtime.

Parker has 17 career sacks, including 3.5 this year. He has a total of 270 tackles and six forced fumbles. While the statistics are impressive, he is also the emotional leader on the defense and sets the tone for the team.

Defensive end Casey Cooley has started three games this year, but his biggest impact this year has come on special teams with his block of Elon's field goal in overtime.

Linebacker Ryan Sweeney will also be honored on Saturday. He has played in two games this year and has 12 tackles in his career and forced a fumble in 2008.

"Who these guys are and what they mean to me and the program, I don't think I can describe what it is," Richmond coach Latrell Scott said. "But these kids have had a great season. They think there's a lot more in store for them. They've willed us to these five wins to this point."

Game notes:

• Rhode Island is just 4-5 this year but that does not mean it will be an easy win for Richmond. Last weekend, Rhode Island upset Villanova University, 17-14, despite not scoring an offensive touchdown.

• These two teams have not met since 2007 when the Spiders had an easy 38-6 victory at UR Stadium.

• Rhode Island has upset two top-10 teams this year. Besides beating No. 3 Villanova, it defeated then-No. 8 New Hampshire28-25 on Sept. 18. Both games have been played in Kingston, R.I. and Richmond has lost to both teams.

• Sophomore John Laub will start again this week after going 15-29 for 176 yards and one touchdown against JMU last week. He is the third quarterback this season to start a game for Richmond and the sixth Spider to pass the ball this year (Laub, quarterback Aaron Corp, quarterback Montel White, punter and backup quarterback Nick Hicks, tailback Jovan Smith and Rogers).

• With the exception of kicker Wil Kamin's game-winning field goal, Kirchoff has touched the ball on every play that Richmond has run in overtime this year. Richmond is 10-1 in overtime games all time and 2-0 this year.

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