The Collegian
Monday, August 15, 2022

Spiders win big, lose quarterback at Albany

<p>Quarterback Michael Strauss takes a snap during a Spiders football game.</p>

Quarterback Michael Strauss takes a snap during a Spiders football game.

The Richmond Spiders beat conference opponent Albany 41-28 on the road Saturday, but came away from the game still having suffered a big loss.

Quarterback Michael Strauss, who has been the anchor of consistency for the Spiders so far this season, suffered a fractured left ankle, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Head coach Danny Rocco told John O’Connor of the RTD that Strauss would miss about a month because of the injury, according to a tweet from O’Connor. Strauss responded to this tweet by simply saying, “2 weeks,” which shows he is more optimistic about his return than his coach.

The Spiders will need to find a way to win without their star quarterback for at least two weeks. Strauss has quietly put up big numbers this season. He has led the conference in passing yards per game with 281, and led the Spiders to a conference-best 508 yards per game of total offense.

Luckily, backup Michael Rocco has seen plenty of action already this season and in his career. Rocco transferred from University of Virginia two years ago, where he started 21 games.

During the offseason leading up to this year, there was a quarterback battle between Strauss and Rocco. To start the year, they saw a fairly equal number of snaps, but as the games rolled on, it became obvious that Strauss was the better option as the starter. Rocco has played as needed and has been more of a situational player. He has come in most often to run the ball on short-yardage plays.

Rocco’s teammates will likely feel comfortable with him at quarterback until Strauss returns, but the offense will probably be modified to fit Rocco’s skill set. Rather than spread the ball around to five or six receivers, the Spiders will probably focus more on the running game and play-action passing, which is a style similar to what Rocco has run in the past. It became clear in the first few games, and against Albany, that he is not as comfortable as Strauss is in the spread offense.

The Spiders are fortunate to be playing their next two games against less-than-formidable opponents. Richmond will play Rhode Island, who is winless, at home this weekend, and then travel to Elon to take on the 1-5 Phoenix the following week.

Rocco has thrown three interceptions in limited action, so the turnover margin will be more important than ever in the coming weeks. If Rocco can protect the ball, the Spiders should be able to earn victories in their next two games.

As a team, Richmond has lost the turnover battle so far this season. The Spiders have lost six more fumbles than their opponents, and thrown four more interceptions than they’ve caught. Against Albany, Richmond turned the ball over four times to Albany’s one, but fortunately the Spiders’ only interception was timely.

Coach Rocco told SpiderTV after the win against Albany that Aaron Roane’s interception early in the game was important for the team. “It really gave us that early momentum,” Rocco said. “It gave us a chance to play with a lead.”

The turnover battle will continue to make or break the Spiders, especially while Strauss is out.

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Rocco will need to perform well and his teammates will have to provide extra support if the Spiders are going to build on their two-game win streak. The team is 4-2 (1-1 in the conference), and the players will do their best to maintain that winning record as they wait for their leader to return at quarterback.

Contact staff writer Charlie Broaddus at charlie.broaddus@richmond.edu

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