The Collegian
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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Spiders come out flat with playoff hopes at stake

There are many types of losses. There are losses like the ones suffered against Towson and New Hampshire, where Richmond lost in a shoot-out. There are losses like those suffered against James Madison or against William & Mary at the end of last year where Richmond gets trounces against a better team.

But none of those compare to the type of loss endured by the Spiders Saturday afternoon.

In front of possibly the smallest sell-out crowd (a majority of people stayed away from Robins Stadium either because of the cold rain or just because the Spiders had lost four-straight games for the first time in a very long time) Richmond played a game in which it appeared to just be going through the motions.

From the University of Massachusetts' eight-play, 64-yard drive to start the game until the final play of the game, a fumble by Richmond back-up quarterback John Laub, Richmond got out-played by a team it could have beaten.

After the first quarter, the Spiders had only one first down and were already down 21-0. Their first four possessions ended like this: punt, punt, interception, punt.

Things got no better in the second half. The Spiders were intercepted the first two times they had the ball. That was followed by three-straight failed fourth-down conversions before the Spiders fumbled the ball away and were forced to punt.

The score is tied if the 21-point first quarter is taken away. But in this instance, the scoreboard does not tell the whole story.

Three times the Minutemen were within Richmond's 5-yard line and failed to score. Brandon Yelovich missed a pair of field goals, including one from 21-yards out.

Although UMass didn't get any points on those possessions, they did enough to deflate the roughly 3,500 people in attendance and more importantly, the Richmond sideline.

After last week's loss which left Richmond hanging on by the slimmest margin to a playoff shot, this was the worst possible outcome.

In interim coach Wayne Lineburg's post-game press conference after the Maine loss last week, he said that his team just needed to get one win to get them headed on a winning streak. Now, the team is faced with the reality that it will miss the playoffs for consecutive years.

"We talked to (the players) about playing now for our fifth-year seniors and pride and what we got to do," Lineburg said. "We can bounce back and play spoiler coming up the next couple of weeks, especially against Old Dominion [next week]."

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There's no denying that Richmond has the talent to play spoilers, the problem is it hasn't figured out how to play a complete game. Three of the five losses this year have been within three points. In those close games, it's the little things that make the difference.

But in games like Saturday, there are multiple areas that need to be addressed. For the first time this year, penalties became an issue. Richmond was penalized six times for a loss of 60 yards. Among the six were consecutive penalties on freshman defensive lineman Terrance Fullum that gave UMass a free first down and three personal foul penalties.

Richmond was unable to keep quarterback Aaron Corp protected before he left the game during the fourth quarter with what Lineburgh said he thought was a hip pointer. The stats say Corp was sacked only once and UMass was credited with no quarterback hits, but Corp often was pressured and driven to the ground on passing plays.

"All week, we knew we had to get to Corp," UMass linebacker Tyler Holmes said. "He's a good quarterback. If you let him sit in the pocket, he'll pick you apart. We wanted to rattle him."

Senior wide receiver Tre Gray was relatively kept in check despite having 100-yards receiving again. Only one of his 10 catches went for more than 20 yards with UMass using zone coverage to prevent him from breaking a big play.

He also had a crucial third-quarter drop on a play that could have gone for a touchdown that would have made it a seven-point game. Instead, Corp was intercepted on the next play.

On the defensive side of the ball, UMass tailback Jonathan Hernandez ran as he pleased in gaining 103 yards and three touchdowns. With defensive players such as safety Cooper Taylor and end Jacob Pierce suffering injuries, the Spiders seemed out-maneuvered by UMass coach Kevin Morris.

Even special teams got in on the struggles by giving the Minutemen good field position. The two times that Richmond kicked off, UMass got the ball on its own 36 and 40.

At one point during the first quarter, UMass had a first-and-57, according to the scoreboard. That was an error, of course.

With the way the Spiders were playing Saturday though, that down and distance may not have been enough to stop the Minutemen.

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