The Collegian
Sunday, June 04, 2023

Richmond finds way to overcome 5 first-half turnovers

The scoreboard read 7-3 at the end of the first half in favor of the University of Richmond over Wagner College Saturday night, but the feeling of the game was very different from the score.

Five first-half turnovers (three fumbles and two interceptions) prevented Richmond from capitalizing on its 229 yards of offense. The one red-zone trip by Richmond ended when quarterback Aaron Corp was intercepted in the end zone by linebacker Mike Lombardo.

And when Richmond wasn't turning the ball over during the first half, it found another way to prevent a scoring drive. With 17 seconds left in the first half, Corp -- who was 16-25 for 236 yards and two touchdowns -- found wide receiver Tre Gray for a 28-yard completion that put the Spiders on the Seahawks' 30-yard line. But a holding penalty on freshman guard Austin Gund negated the play and forced Richmond back to its 32-yard line.

Instead of possibly being in field goal range, Richmond took itself out of position to score -- the story of the first half.

A majority of the questions at the post-game press conference following Richmond's 21-6 victory directed to Richmond players and coach Wayne Lineburg were about the turnovers. Although Richmond did a better job during the second half and did not turn the ball over, Lineburg still did not ignore what occurred during the first half.

"We got to go back and have a better week of practice as far as [turnovers] go," Lineburg said. "It will be a major point of emphasis like it always is and we have a lot of things to clean up."

If any good came out of the turnovers, it was that they often did not put the Seahawks in good position to score. Only one of them came on the Richmond side of the field, which was when senior tailback Garrett Turner fumbled on Richmond's 48.

The Spider defense bailed out the offense by limiting the amount of damage. Only one of those turnovers resulted in a score, as kicker David Lopez hit a 38-yard field goal with 6:01 left in the first half.

The Spiders also benefited from the Seahawks' undisciplined play. Following Lombardo's interception, Wagner quarterback threw a screen pass to tailback Dominique Williams at its own 22. Williams was able to take that third-down pass and run the 78 years necessary to get into the end zone, but the score was called back on a penalty, which would have given Wagner a 10-7 lead.

Outside of that play, the Spider defense gave up little else, and held the Seahawks to 71 first-half yards.

"If for any reason the offense has a struggle or starts slowly, we'll be that boost to get them started," linebacker Darius McMillan said. "Last week [at Duke University], the offense saved us a lot. This week we went out there with the mentality that we have to be able to respond to anything that's thrown our way."

Last week at Duke, Richmond committed just one turnover -- a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage was picked off -- in its upset victory. It needed that perfection as Richmond escaped Wallace Wade Stadium with a two-point win.

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This week, Richmond was fortunate in its opponent. Wagner was picked to finish seventh in the Northeast Conference coaches pre-season poll. As a NEC member, Wagner is only allowed to give out the equivalent of 33 full scholarships compared to Richmond's 65.

Although the game did not go as planned and the post-game focus was on Richmond's turnovers, that did not deter the Spiders from enjoying their win.

"You always celebrate a win," Corp said. "And right now, we are just happy that we got out with a win"

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