Richmond was able to overcome a season-ending injury to its starting quarterback and sail past North Carolina A&T in the first round of the FCS playoffs.
With star quarterback Kyle Lauletta injured, Richmond turned to Kevin Johnson, a sophomore from Georgia. Coach Danny Rocco had said he would not burn Johnson's redshirt season for just a few games, but the quarterback walked into Rocco's office on Monday morning and asked for the opportunity to play.
After some thought, Rocco agreed to let Johnson play. He delivered, keeping the strong Richmond offense humming, but it was the defense and special teams that were the heroes of the game, helping the Spiders roll to a 39–10 victory.
On special teams, Dejon Brissett returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to give Richmond a lead they would never give up. Griffin Trau also kicked a school record-tying four field goals.
The Richmond special teams had struggled to return the ball this season, resulting in the team often starting with poor field position. If Saturday's game is any indication of a turnaround, it could bode well for the Spiders' chances in the playoffs.
The defense stood strong all game. It forced four turnovers, including two interceptions and two recovered fumbles. The big test, however, was stopping NC A&T running back Tarik Cohen, which they did, allowing him only 70 yards. The Spiders' defense allowed the Aggies only 226 total yards of offense in the game, an impressive accomplishment against a fellow playoff team.
Johnson proved himself to be a viable injury replacement for Lauletta, finishing the game with 315 passing yards and two touchdowns, one a 32-yard pass to Brian Brown and another a seven-yard run.
This marks the third year in a row that Richmond has a playoff victory. The team is set to face seventh-ranked University of North Dakota on Dec. 3 in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Contact sports writer Mike Cronin at email@example.com