1) Response to Rhode Island - Richmond's 12-10 loss at Rhode Island, which was one of the worst losses in Richmond's disappointing season, all but guaranteed the Spiders won't win the CAA or make the playoffs. The Spiders, losers of three straight and five of their last six, are playing for pride at this point. But pride could (and should) be enough to keep Richmond motivated for the rest of the season. Richmond is on a similar trajectory as it was two years ago, when the Spiders went undefeated in out-of-conference play before losing all of its conference games to finish 3-8. I think this Richmond team will not go down the same path and will eventually find its form. One positive for Richmond is that it has less riding on the game than #6 Towson, as the Tigers have conference and national championship aspirations. Maybe this lack of pressure will loosen the Spiders up and help them get a big win over the Tigers.
2) Towson's Offense v. Richmond's Defense - Towson's offense and Richmond's defense have each been excellent this year. Towson's offense, which averages 480.5 yards per game, has scored at least 33 points in all of its games this year (and that low came against FBS opponent Connecticut). Richmond's defense averages 19.1 points against per game, which is ranked third in the CAA and 10th nationally. Something has to give this Saturday-- the question is will it be Towson's high-powered offense or Richmond's stingy defense?
3) Ben Edwards' Injury - Edwards will not play this Saturday because he is recovering from a concussion he suffered in the first quarter at Rhode Island. Edwards' replacements have big shoes to fill, as Edwards leads the Spiders in all-purpose yards and the CAA in receptions per game. Edwards missed most of the URI game and the other receivers could not make up for his absence. Richmond had just 255 passing yards in its 12-10 loss to the Rams. It's going to take a combined effort from Shane Savage, Rashad Ponder and Reggie Diggs to replace Edwards. All three receivers have looked great in spurts at different points this year, and the Spiders will need them to play well in order to beat Towson.
Keys to a Richmond victory:
1) Contain Terrance West - Towson's offense is led by Terrance West, who leads the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns. Richmond showed it can stop good running backs when it held James Madison running back Dae'Quan Scott, who was ranked second in the CAA in rushing yards per game at the time, to 42 yards. The issue for the Spiders, however, is that they contained Scott by loading the box and allowing JMU to throw the ball down the field. Towson quarterback Peter Athens, who is second in the CAA in passing yards per game behind Michael Strauss, will tear apart Richmond's secondary if the Spiders consistently load the box with eight or nine defenders. Richmond desperately needs big games from linebackers Aaron Roane and Eric Wright so that Richmond can contain West while having enough defensive backs on the field to cover the pass. This is asking a lot out of Richmond's front seven, but the Spiders are going to need to play great to knock off the Tigers.
2) Big Game from Strauss - Strauss was off his game last week at URI, and Richmond will need a big game from him if the Spiders are going to win. Richmond will need to score a good amount of points to win because Richmond's defense will only be able to do so much against the Tigers' offense. Due to Edward's injury and Richmond's poor running game, Strauss has a lot of pressure to carry the offense, and I think he will be up to the challenge. Strauss is a gamer who plays his best when he's under a lot of pressure. I think Strauss' best two games for Richmond were at North Carolina State this year, when he torched an ACC defense on the road, and when he led the Spiders to an upset over #2 ranked JMU last season. There was a lot of pressure on Strauss heading into these two games and he played exceptionally, and I think the same will happen this weekend.
3) Score Touchdowns, not Field Goals - Recently, Richmond has struggled to execute as it approached the end zone. Several of Richmond's losses, such as JMU and Maine, could have been wins had it simply capitalized in the red zone and scored touchdowns rather than having to settle for field goals. The Spiders absolutely have to capitalize on red-zone trips this Saturday in order to get the win. In order to beat good teams, there is very little room for error and if Richmond fails to take advantage of scoring opportunities, it will be a long day for the Spiders.
Prediction - 35-24 Towson - Strauss will keep the Spiders in the game but Towson's offense will be just too much for Richmond, and the Tigers will pull out the victory.
Contact staff writer Jack Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on twitter at @URJackNicholson
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