The University of Richmond football team concluded its spring season when the offense outscored the defense 51-29 in the annual spring game at the E. Claiborne Robins Stadium on Saturday.
The offensive and defensive units squared off over four 12-minute quarters with the clock running the whole time. The scoring system included points allowed for first downs, extra points, field goals and touchdowns for the offense, and forced punts, tackles for loss, pass break-ups, sacks, takeaways and a few other highlight plays for the defense.
Both sides racked up several highlights during the game. The defense controlled most of the first half and finished with two takeaways. First was a first quarter interception by linebacker Sean Ryan, and next a third quarter pick by defensive lineman Andrew Tallman.
The offense came out of the gates slow, but finally scored on a perfectly executed lateral pass from quarterback Michael Rocco to wide receiver Stephen Barnette. Barnette dropped back and threw a perfect 42-yard strike to tight end Hunter Westfall for the first touchdown of the game. Barnette finished with 10 catches for 136 yards, while redshirt sophomore Will McCombs had a great day as well, ending with eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown grab while being triple covered.
While the game wasn't traditionally scored and there weren't real winners or losers, there were a few storylines and takeaways for the upcoming 2014 season.
Battle of the Michaels:
The competition for starting quarterback between incumbent Michael Strauss and finally-eligible Michael Rocco was on full display Saturday. Both quarterbacks ended with similar stat lines, 10-16 for 127 yards for Rocco and 10-15 for 115 and a touchdown (one interception as well) for Strauss, but Rocco looked a little more in control. The redshirt senior handled some pressure from the defensive line during the day and made a couple of highlight throws to Barnette. Strauss was by no means bad, but looked a little shaky at times, which was unsurprising given him missing some time with a shoulder injury earlier in the spring.
Head coach Danny Rocco's thoughts: "I think they both had good springs. Strauss missed a week in the middle and Mike Rocco made a pretty good push in there, but I can't say he beat him out. We're coming out of spring with Strauss as the quarterback, and we'll continue competition into summer."
Big Shoes to Fill:
Sophomore Peter Yoder will have to expand on his game from last year when he only kicked off for the Spiders, now that placekicker Brandon Jordi is no longer playing. Jordi left the team as the school record holder for field goals made in a season, so Yoder has a big role to step in to. His first day on the job was nearly a perfect one. Yoder connected on 3-4 field goals (made from 36, 35, and 27 yards, missed from 33) and 2-2 extra points.
Rocco's thoughts: "Yoder got better all spring. He came in not really knowing what jobs he would have to do. This year he came to realize 'I'm going to have to do more,' and each week he really gained some confidence."
Hit the Ground Running:
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The rushing game has to develop from last season if the Spiders hope to improve. Two of the backs returning from last year, Seth Fisher and Jacobi Green, didn't suit up for Saturday's game, allowing freshman Jeremiah Hamlin and redshirt sophomore T.J. Moon to get some big minutes. Moon was named the offense's most improved player by Rocco at halftime, but didn't show much during the game finishing with only 21 yards on seven carries. Hamlin had a strong fourth quarter to bring his rushing totals to 73 yards on 13 attempts, but did little in the first three.
Rocco's thoughts: "I think we'll be very multiple. I've always believed your ability to control the line of scrimmage and control the clock by running the football would allow you to dictate the terms of the game. Last year, we weren't able to do that because we didn't have enough confidence to run the ball. I really think everything will be filtered through our ability to run the ball [next season]."
Contact staff writer Jeremy Day at firstname.lastname@example.org
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