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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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Wildcats hand Spiders first loss of the season, 45-43

The University of Richmond football team staged a fourth-quarter comeback, but its second-quarter mistakes were too much to overcome.

In the first Colonial Athletic Association conference game for each team, the University of New Hampshire defeated the Spiders, 45-43, Saturday night at Robins Stadium.

The Wildcats outscored Richmond, 28-10, in the second quarter thanks mostly to Spider mistakes. Two interceptions returned for touchdowns and one fumbled kickoff return resulted in 21 of New Hampshire's second-quarter points.

"We just made too many mistakes," Richmond interim coach Wayne Lineburg said, "and you can't do that in this league."

Fast forward to the fourth quarter, when New Hampshire was leading 35-23. After a Wildcats' field goal to open the quarter extended the lead, Richmond began its comeback.

Spider wide receiver Tre Gray started to become a focal point of the offense, catching everything within reach and helping his offense move down the field quickly on consecutive drives. Gray finished the game with 194 yards on 16 receptions, both career highs.

"I just did what I was told," Gray said. "Coach called the plays; we ran them."

The first drive ended with fullback Kendall Gaskins rushing through the middle for a 13-yard touchdown, but the extra point was missed wide right by kicker Will Kamin, who had already made three field goals in the game.

The missed extra point left the score at 38-29, meaning the Spiders were still two scores down.

"Things happen. Obviously, that one didn't work out there," Lineburg said. "But he made a couple other field goals that -- if he hadn't made those -- we wouldn't have been in the situation we were in either. Can't blame any one play or any one player when things don't go right."

Despite the setback, Richmond continued its comeback, pulling to with two points on a nine-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Corp to receiver Ben Edwards. Like Gray, Corp also had numerous career highs, throwing for 351 yards and two touchdowns on 35 completions.

After that score narrowed New Hampshire's lead to 38-36, Richmond's defense was able to prevent the Wildcats from earning a first down on its next possession, but a 58-yard punt by UNH's Mike MacArthur gave the Spiders poor field position on its own 10-yard line.

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The Wildcats defense responded to the challenge, also preventing any first downs, and giving their offense great field position on Richmond's 46-yard line as a result.

On the second play of that drive, New Hampshire quarterback Kevin Decker caught the Richmond defense guessing run and went over the top to receiver R.J. Harris for 47-yard touchdown that seemed to end any hopes of the Spiders winning.

Richmond refused to quit, quickly driving down the field while conserving their timeouts. With 28 seconds left in regulation, Gaskins rushed into the end zone from one yard out to make the score 45-43, and the Spiders had two timeouts remaining. It was Gaskins' third rushing touchdown on the game.

After the score, Richmond was forced to try an onside kick and at first glance, it seemed that Gray came up with the ball to give the Spiders new life. In the end though, a New Hampshire player emerged from the pile with the ball to seal the Wildcats' win.

"I felt like I had it," Gray said. "I thought I did what we was supposed to do, which is cradle the ball, but he ended up with it."

The game, which lasted three and a half hours, had 20 penalties between the two teams. Aside from the penalties, injuries also played a major role, especially for Richmond.

Already missing starting defensive linemen Kerry Wynn and Corey Jackson, who both suffered injuries in last week's victory against Virginia Military Institute, Richmond also watched starting defensive lineman Evan Kelly and offensive lineman Mark Speir leave the game with injuries.

One bright spot for the Spiders in its otherwise bad second quarter came off a trick play. Facing a fourth and three from the UNH 6-yard line, Gaskins ran around a confused Wildcats defense into the end zone off a fake field goal that included multiple pre-snap motions. That rush brought the Spiders to within 28-20 going into halftime.

"It's something we've worked on for quite some time, and we rolled the dice, and it worked out great," Lineburg said.

Besides being this team's first loss of the season, it was also Lineburg's first at his new position.

Next week, Richmond (3-1) will travel to Harrisonburg, Va., to face another CAA-foe, James Madison University. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Game Notes: Kamin's 45-yard field goal during the second quarter tied a Robins Stadium record... For the third consecutive game, linebacker Darius McMillan led the Spiders in tackles with 11... Richmond's offense outgained New Hampshire's in total yards, 475-368, and held the advantage in time of possession, 36:42 to 23:18.

Contact staff writer David Weissman at david.weissman@richmond.edu

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