1) Desperation - Richmond came into the season with conference championship and even national championship hope, yet the Spiders find themselves 2-4 halfway through their season. Richmond's victory over Liberty in week four looked like it could have been a turning point for the team, but consecutive conference losses have Richmond in desperation mode. We have reached the midway point of the season, and although not much has gone well for Richmond in recent weeks, the season is not lost. Each of Richmond's four losses have been one-possession games that the Spiders could have won. The Spiders won a share of the conference last year with two losses, and if they win out, a difficult yet possible task, they could possibly do the same. The Spiders road to redemption needs to start this week with a win against Rhode Island.
2) Barnette injury - Stephen Barnette, who leads the CAA with 95.6 receiving yards per game, will most likely be out against URI after injuring his lower back in the first quarter against James Madison. Barnette is certainly a loss for the Spiders, but Richmond has several strong replacements. Reggie Diggs looked Barnette-like against JMU, as he had 136 yards on 8 catches. Shane Savage, who had 7 receptions for 68 yards against JMU, played well when replacing an injured Ben Edwards early this season. I don't expect Richmond's passing offense to skip a beat.
Keys to a Richmond victory:
1) Score over 21 points - Rhode Island's offense has been abysmal this year. The Rams are averaging 17.1 points per game, which is last in the CAA, and 9.5 points per game against CAA opponents. Richmond's defense, which is ranked fourth in the CAA in points allowed per game with 20.3, should be able to handle URI's offense. I can't see Richmond losing if they score over 21 points.
2) Prevent big plays - JMU's big plays were a deciding factor in its victory over Richmond last Saturday. In its 38-31 victory, JMU scored four touchdowns on drives with four plays or less. I don't think Rhode Island has the offensive ability to consistently put together long drives against the Spiders, so big plays could be the Rams' best chance at putting up points. If Richmond can prevent long plays, it will be in a good position to pick up a much needed win.
3) Capitalize in the red zone - A reoccurring theme that has developed in recent weeks for the Spiders is their inability to finish near the endzone. Richmond leads the CAA in field goals, with 10, and is second in field goal attempts, with 12. Some of Richmond's close losses could have been wins if it had scored touchdowns rather than field goals in those situations. Head coach Danny Rocco attributed much of its red-zone failure to Richmond's lack of a running game. This leads me to...
Jacobi Green rushes for over 100 yards - The running game has been bad. We all know that. URI's run defense, which is allowing 197.1 yards per game, has been equally bad. Green has shown he has open field speed, as he torched Liberty with 181 rushing yards. Out of the Spiders' remaining games, this is their best shot to have success running the ball. Looking forward, if Richmond's running game plays well against the Rams, it will force future opponents to somewhat respect the run.
Final Score: 30-17 Richmond - This is a game the Spiders should not much trouble winning. With that being said, Richmond has proven it can lose to any team on its schedule. I expect the Spiders bounce back at URI and come out with a decisive victory.
Contact staff writer Jack Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on twitter at @URJackNicholson
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