Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta threw the ball wherever he wanted Friday night. Sometimes he picked CAA first-teamer Reggie Diggs, whose height and jumping ability beckon Lauletta to throw the ball up. Other times he chose CAA first-teamer Brian Brown, whose ability to adjust to deep passes helped him on multiple occasions. Most of the time, though, it was CAA first-teamer Jacobi Green, who caught one touchdown pass and ran for three others. How do you stop the Spiders with all those weapons?
Illinois State didn't have the answer. "I've got a good football team," Richmond coach Danny Rocco told reporters after the game for at least the third week in a row.
Richmond was, well, unstoppable on Friday night in its 39-27 win against the second-ranked team in the country, Illinois State. The Spiders will advance to the FCS semifinals for the first time since 2008 when they won their only National Championship in school history.
And it's all because of Green. And Brown. And Diggs. And Lauletta. And everyone else in that locker room.
Green will receive the bulk of the credit for Richmond's win on Friday, and he deserves it. He finished with 183 yards and four touchdowns. Not bad.
"It's really hard to put into words what he did tonight," Rocco said of Green. "We were having a hard time getting creases in there–it didn't really matter. He is a gamer."
Here are some more stats, though. Lauletta threw for 369 yards and a touchdown. Brown caught five passes for 141 yards, and Diggs caught five passes for 80 yards. Richmond converted seven of 13 third downs, although all seven came at crucial moments in the game, making that stat look less important than it really is.
"It was just one-on-one, just giving them a chance," Lauletta said of his receivers. "And our playmakers making the plays when they needed to."
And here are five guys who don't need stats to justify their importance: Nick Ritcher, Caleb High, Nick Vergos, Thomas Evans and Alex Light. That's Richmond's offensive line, led by Evans, the strongest man in Richmond football history. That's the force that drove Richmond's bus 556 yards and into the endzone six times last night.
So, the question remains unanswered. How do you stop the Spiders?
Maybe you don't. Maybe the Spiders stop you instead. The scoreboard won't show how powerful Richmond's defense was, nor will the stat sheet. But every time Illinois State's offense began to find a rhythm, Richmond shut it down.
"We wanted to try to keep everything inside," Richmond defensive back Trevor Jones said, referring to the Redbird's offensive speed and elusiveness. He led the Spiders with nine tackles.
Perhaps the play of the game came in the third quarter from linebacker Omar Howard, who intercepted a pass intended for the endzone to save what could have been a touchdown for Illinois State. The Redbirds would have taken their first lead of the game with a touchdown. Instead, they trailed the entire game.
With the way Richmond's offense is playing, the defense needs only solid performances from here on out. It's hard to imagine an FCS team with the ability to match up with Diggs and Brown on the outside, while simultaneously filling the middle of the field with enough players to stop Green from running wild.
But if there's a team that can do it, it's four-time defending national champion North Dakota State.
The Spiders learned Saturday that they would travel to Fargo, North Dakota to face the Bison, who defeated Northern Iowa 23-13 in the quarterfinals. Perhaps the hardest part of that task will be traveling to play in the FargoDome, probably the loudest and most intimidating atmosphere in FCS football.
Contact sports editor Charlie Broaddus at email@example.com