The Richmond Spiders used a sharp offense and disruptive defense to spoil new Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall's housewarming party on Saturday in Charlottesville.
The game began with a mostly-packed house cheering for a horse and Cavalier as they led Virginia's team onto the field, officially marking the beginning of what fans were calling "Hoos Rising." By the end of the third quarter, about one-third of those fans remained.
Richmond used an exquisite, methodical offensive attack to dissect the Cavaliers' defense in the 37–20 win. Meanwhile, the defense and special teams were forcing turnovers — four of them, to be exact — continually throughout the game. It was Richmond's first win over Virginia since 1946.
"It was a great win for our program," coach Danny Rocco said. "We've got an experienced team. Our team expected to win when we left Richmond yesterday. We were committed to winning this thing. Nothing else would have felt good. Nothing else would have felt right."
The only downside for Richmond was that the margin of victory wasn't wider. Quarterback Kyle Lauletta was nearly perfect, completing 24 of 35 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns. Eight players ran the ball and eight caught at least one pass. The Spiders finished with 524 yards of offense, 187 on the ground and 337 through the air.
The Cavaliers rushed for 38 yards (they had -3 yards after three quarters).
Here's a full breakdown of the stats:
The story of the game was Lauletta's performance. Play after play, he escaped pressure, maneuvered in and out of the pocket and delivered accurate throws. It was evident that Richmond was comfortable using its entire playbook, and that the coaches trusted Lauletta to make adjustments when he deemed necessary.
"The protection was great," Lauletta said. "We really ran the ball at will. The defense can't really zero in on one guy."
It didn't hurt that he had a plethora of teammates on the other end of his throws. Senior Brian Brown finished with seven catches for 88 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Tyler Wilkins scored two touchdowns, caught four passes and gained 63 yards.
"Brian Brown is an exceptional receiver," Rocco said. "His career validates it. Tyler (Wilkins) is very quick, very explosive, very dynamic. He's really hard to cover."
The Spiders' defense, although on the field for only 20 minutes, honed in the Virginia's ballcarriers and made them pay for lazy ball-handling. In the first quarter, Brendan Coniker forced and recovered a fumble five yards from the goal line.
Lauletta and the offense then went 95 yards for a touchdown.
Other noteworthy players included Winston Craig, who had two sacks, and Tafon Mainsah, who had the game's lone interception. Craig said the time of possession helped the defense stay fresh, so that it could accomplish its goals of forcing three-and-outs.
Richmond truly showed it could compete with, and handle, any team on its schedule. The Spiders could be heard celebrating the win through cement walls. The team was ecstatic.
Richmond has an easier schedule the next few weeks, but Lauletta said he was not worried about overconfidence.
"We have an experienced group, and we don't have the type of guys that would even think about (being overconfident)," "We're going to enjoy tonight, definitely. We deserve it. This is good for our program, but it doesn't really do anything for our season. We've really got to sustain this success all season."
Richmond's home opener is next week against Norfolk State in Robins Stadium.
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