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Thursday, May 19, 2022


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Spiders frustrate in 31-28 loss to Towson Tigers

TOWSON, Md. — Welcome to the world of coaching, Wayne Lineburg. If the past three weeks haven't made you crazy, you may be cut out for this job.

Losing a shoot-out to New Hampshire? No problem, it was only a three-point loss, your first of the year. A blowout at James Madison University? Concerning, especially since it was your second-straight Colonial Athletic Association.

After Saturday's three-point loss to Towson, well, it may be time to find that proverbial panic button.

Richmond lost Saturday to an improved, but still beatable, Towson Saturday night, 31-28, thanks to inconsistent play from week-to-week. The offensive line did its job after struggling the previous week, but it was the run defense that had its issues.

Richmond's run defense was nowhere to be found Saturday, one week after shutting down JMU's powerful running attack for most of the game.

Towson was down to its third-string tailback, Dominique Booker, and a tailback that wasn't even listed on its depth chart, Terrance West. That didn't stop them from running all over the Spider defense for a combined 200 yards and West from scoring four touchdowns.

Of course, it didn't help that Richmond was down three starters on its defensive line, including senior captain and best run stopper, Corey Jackson. The make-shift line was handled by the Towson offensive line, which allowed it to block Richmond's linebackers, including the Spiders' best tackler, Darius McMillan.

The most frustrating thing from a Richmond perspective, though, was that this was the same defensive line that held JMU's running game in check up until the second half when fatigue allowed the Dukes to break some long runs.

That's the problem with starting a young defensive line. The three freshmen and one sophomore who start are bound to be inconsistent as they learn the speed of college football and feel the physical impacts of playing in the CAA.

Things got so dire for Lineburg that he started to employ a 3-4 defense to give his defensive linemen some rest and to show Towson a different formation. It didn't help to slow down the Towson offense, which punted just twice Saturday.

"More than anything, we did it out of necessity," Lineburg said. Richmond ran that type of defense for a few plays during the second quarter but then scrapped it during the second half.

The inconsistency doesn't stop on defense for the Spiders. They got in the red zone six times and scored five times, a good percentage. What wasn't good was how exactly those scores came.

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Until the fourth quarter, Richmond scored only one touchdown in four trips. There were a pair of field goals from Wil Kamin, one miss from Kamin (which, like his miss against New Hampshire, changed how Richmond played the rest of the game) and a fumble by the normally steady Tre Gray. That missed field goal plus the Gray fumble cost the Spiders at least six points.

Of course the players wouldn't admit to being panicked following Saturday's loss. "I wouldn't say we're concerned at all," quarterback Aaron Corp said. "There's still a lot of football to be played."

That's what you would expect the team's quarterback -- and one of four captains - to say. The reality is that there isn't much time left for the Spiders until they face the possibility of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Richmond already has three conference losses. With the CAA being perceived as being weaker than in previous years, chances are it won't receive as many playoff bids as last years.

There is still hope for the Spiders, however slim it is. They are off next weekend and then host Maine, a team expected to be in the bottom half of the CAA standings.

Richmond should also get a boost from players coming back from injury. Jackson has walked with less of a limp the past week after suffering a dislocated knee cap against Virginia Military Institute. Defensive end Kerry Wynn could also be back within the next few weeks after suffering a dislocated elbow in that same game.

There is also hope found within Saturday's game. Corp was able to lead his offense on two game-tying drives during the fourth quarter. When he gets more than two seconds to throw the ball, unlike against JMU, he can be a deadly-accurate passer, shown by his FCS record 31-of-34 passing performance.

Combine Corp with the receiving corps of Gray, Ben Edwards and Stephen Barnette and the stable of tight ends, led by Kevin Finney, and that's a dynamic offense.

On the defensive side, the pieces for a stout defense are there. McMillan and safety Cooper Taylor are two of the hardest hitters in the CAA, safety Colin Pehanick has a knack for finding the ball. Freshman linebacker Aaron Roane has been a pleasant surprise with his big-play potential, such as his forced fumble against JMU. The cornerbacks, Tremayne Graham and Darryl Hamilton, have been solid.

"We just have to see if we can put one full game of football together on both sides," Lineburg said. "If we can do that, we can be a pretty good dag-gone football team."

The games will continue to be frustrating to Richmond fans until the team heads Lineburg's words.

Isn't this a fun job?

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