1) Got to stop the streak- It was a storyline last week, and it will continue to be one until this team can earn a victory. The losing streak now stands at nine dating back to last season and, though this appears to be a game the Spiders should win, Richmond can't take anything for granted.
2) Quarterback controversy brewing?- John Laub, named the starting QB before the UVA game, showed flashes of potential last Saturday, but he was still, by his own admission, too inconsistent. Meanwhile, backup Michael Strauss came in towards the end of the game and looked very good, albeit against Virginia's backups. Richmond coach Danny Rocco said the competition between Laub and Strauss would continue into the season, so pay close attention this week to how Rocco utilizes the two, especially if Laub struggles early again.
3) Home-Field Advantage- As the season wears on, Richmond students often show less and less support for the Spider football team, but don't expect student and fan support to be a problem in the team's home opener. With the class of 2016 excited to catch their first live football action as students, Robins Stadium will be loud Saturday night.
What to Look For:
1) Coop- Richmond safety Cooper Taylor, who transferred from Georgia Tech before last season, is arguably the Spiders best defender, but he's been hampered by injuries during his Richmond career and missed the UVA game last week. Word around the team is that he should be ready for this contest, but how much Rocco plays his oft-injured star against a team the Spiders are expected to overmatch is something to pay attention to.
2) Beatty eyes- Gardner-Webb had a quarterback controversy of its own during the offseason, with sophomore Lucas Beatty earning the job for the opener against No. 10 Wofford. Despite the Bulldogs losing, 34-7, to the Terriers, Beatty proved himself by throwing for more than 200 yards and a touchdown. With UVA quarterback Michael Rocco picking apart Richmond's secondary last weekend, Beatty will look to build on his performance and further distance himself from his competitors.
3) Richmond running game- While the Spiders weren't able to gain much on the ground against the Cavaliers, three players showed bursts in fullback Kendall Gaskins and tailbacks Jovan Smith and Jacobi Green. Richmond might have a three-headed monster in its backfield this season if those guys can get going against FCS opponents. The Bulldogs defense was good against the run against Wofford, so this should be a good test for where those three are at, and how well the line can open up holes for them.
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1) Spiders D causes turnovers early- Richmond's defense is full of passionate players. These guys thrive off of noise and excitement. As mentioned earlier, the crowd's going to be loud for the home opener. This unit missed on a couple opportunities last Saturday to give the ball back to the offense, and Rocco called them out in the post-game press conference, saying they needed to take advantage. Expect the defense to respond to the criticism and capitalize in the first half against Gardner-Webb.
2) Hinshaw makes all his extra points- Normally it's not too bold to predict a division-1 kicker will make extra point attempts, but Richmond's kicking game has been a problem area for the past couple seasons now. Rocco named Remington Hinshaw the starter before the season over incumbent Wil Kamin, but Hinshaw responded by missing his first extra point attempt against UVA. He's a good kicker; he showed that this offseason; expect a bounce-back performance.
3) The game won't be won until the fourth quarter- No matter how highly favored Richmond is in this game, the fact is that this team needs to prove it can win a game. Gardner-Webb is a team with a lot of fourth- and fifth-year guys along both lines, and that should keep this game close into the final 15-minute frame.
Final Score Prediction: UR- 27, GW- 10
Contact staff writer David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org
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