On a day characterized by heavy wind, sideways rain and low attendance, Kyle Lauletta's arm never looked better.
The Richmond Spiders sent a message to the CAA yesterday by blowing out the Maine Black Bears 48-17 on the first weekend of conference games. The laws of gravity didn't apply to the on-and-off rain as it blew around Robins Stadium, nor did they seem to apply to the deep throws Lauletta lofted for touchdowns throughout the game.
The Spiders started fast. On the first drive, Richmond went 75 yards in four plays, finished off by a 27-yard pass from Lauletta to Reggie Diggs to give Richmond the lead less than two minutes in. On the first play of the next drive, Lauletta dropped back, stepped around a defender to move up in the pocket, then hit Brian Brown in stride deep downfield for a 75-yard touchdown.
The Spiders led 14-0 with 12 minutes left in the first quarter.
I'm not a big stats guy, but here are a few to put Richmond's dominance in perspective. Lauletta finished with 311 yards and four touchdowns. Brown had 205 total yards and two touchdowns, and Diggs had 96 yards and two touchdowns. Richmond averaged eight yards a play.
"[My back's] feeling a lot better," Brown said. "All week I was feeling good. I was in and out of the training room and next thing you know I'm running full speed."
Brown's performance was particularly encouraging for the Spiders because he had been battling a back injury that kept him sidelined against VMI. He didn't appear to have any lingering issues.
Lauletta was in rhythm with Brown and Diggs all day. He was throwing to the right spots and, more importantly, protecting the ball.
"From last year to this year, that's probably the single biggest difference in our offense right now, is our ability to protect the football," Richmond coach Danny Rocco said. "We've got a disciplined group of guys right now that are not doing stupid things."
Lauletta has thrown just one interception and been sacked just twice all season. The Spiders have also fumbled just once.
"In the secondary we have to help our D-linemen out," Jones said. "If he doesn't have anywhere to throw the ball, then the D-line is gonna eventually get off a block. We covered pretty well except for a few plays that we'll correct."Richmond's offensive explosion overshadowed an inspired defensive performance. Eight different defenders made at least six tackles, all led by fiery defensive back Trevor Jones, who made two straight tackles in the backfield. The defense is forcing turnovers, too, with seven interceptions and a fumble recovery this season. Two of those interceptions came against Maine.
There weren't many negatives for Richmond on Saturday, but the few that existed might be lingering problems. Backup quarterback David Broadus did not play because of an indefinite suspension, resulting from a "violation of athletic department policy," the public relations department said. We will update that storyline as more information becomes available.
The other negative was the absence of a significant fan base, despite the hundreds of parents in town for Family Weekend. The student section was virtually empty, and the rest of the stands were about 20 percent full.
The Spiders, now 3-1, host Elon next Saturday at Robins Stadium, and the stands might be similarly empty because students will be on fall break.
Contact Sports Editor Charlie Broaddus at email@example.com