The University of Richmond football team beat the Howard University Bisons in its home opener with a score of 38-14 on Saturday afternoon at the E. Claiborne Robins Stadium.
Graduate student and quarterback Joe Mancuso threw 293 yards and two touchdowns and rushed another touchdown. Redshirt junior running back Aaron Dykes received two of Mancuso’s passes, leading to two touchdowns. Both Mancuso and Dykes walked off the field with 54 rushing yards under their belts.
The energy in Robins Stadium for the Spiders’ season opener was lively. Students handed out free Spider swag, tailgaters filled the parking lots and a crammed student section brought high energy to the field.
Head Coach Russ Huesman discussed the environment and how the team is getting back in the rhythm of playing football during a postgame press conference.
“I mean [the game] was really pretty special,” Huesman said. “I thought we had a really nice crowd today for Labor Day weekend. I was really pleased with the people out here and how many showed up. Hopefully we can keep playing well and winning and give these people a reason to come back out.”
The game started out with a line drive kick out of bounds setting the Spiders down at the 35-yard line. Howard played strong defense and kept UR back, leaving them with a third and four on the 27-yard line with 10:50 left in the first quarter.
Redshirt sophomore and running back Savon Smith pushed through Howard’s defensive line and gave UR a first down. With one yard to go and 9:49 left in the quarter, Dykes rushed the ball into the endzone, where he scored the first Spider’s touchdown.
The Spiders returned with strong defense, as well, and regained the ball with 2:34 left in the first quarter. With 0:29 left on the clock, Dykes, at the one yard line, rushed to the end zone and scored another touchdown for the Spiders. The first quarter ended with a score of 13-0.
UR lacked a strong defense in the second quarter. With 11:28 on the clock, Howard’s running back Ian Wheeler drove through an open hole in UR’s defense and ran a 24-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 13-7.
“I thought our offensive line protected really well today, defensively -- not very clean,” Huesman said.
With tensions building and 9:56 on the clock in the second quarter, Mancuso broke out for a 41-yard run into the endzone, bringing the score to 20-7.
With only three minutes left in the quarter, UR called a timeout as they sat on a fourth and five count. UR sophomore kicker Jake Larson drove a 25 yard kick through the up-rights and brought the score to 23-7.
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Howard responded with a fierce play. Quarterback Quinton Williams threw a stunning 64-yard pass to tight end Christion Carter. The second quarter ended with a score of 23-13.
At the beginning of the third quarter, UR’s defense tightened up as Howard played an aggressive offense. In the first two minutes of the quarter, Howard was left with a count of third and 13.
UR’s senior defensive linemen Caleb Brooks got the sack on Howard’s quarterback and forced the fourth down.
With UR in possession, Mancuso threw a picture perfect spiral to junior wide receiver Isaac Brown for a 51-yard pass and a Spider touchdown, bringing the score to 30-14.
With 10:37 left in the third quarter and the ball in Howard’s possession, graduate student linebacker Tyler Dressler sacked Williams, forcing a fumble. Redshirt defensive linemen Marlem Louis recovered the fumble.
Mancuso threw a ten-yard pass with 8:30 left in the third quarter to sophomore redshirt wide receiver Robert Rolfe, who scored his first career touchdown and brought the score to 36-14. The Spiders then went for two and scored.
In the fourth quarter, both teams played strong defense, and possession switched frequently. UR brought in graduate quarterback Beau English,who played a strong offense with 11 passing yards and four completions on six attempts.
Dressler got a strong tackle on a wide open player, leading the Bisons to turn the ball over soon after.
The game ended with 1:33 on the clock and a final attempt by freshman redshirt running back Jerry Garcia Jr. who was ultimately brought down after three Howard players joined the chase. The Spiders were victorious and concluded the game with a final score of 38-14.
Mancuso and Huesman had good things to say about the team during the postgame conference, but they were able to point out a few shortcomings in the team's abilities.
“I wasn’t overly pleased,” Huesman said. “ I'm not even sure how many yards they had, but [we were not] real good defensively. We got to be better than that.”
Mancuso noted that the Spider defense was strong.
“I mean, it always comes down to all three phases of the game,” Mancuso said. “You have offense, defense and special teams, and I feel like today we dominated all three phases.”
He was quick to recognize the few mishaps that occurred on the field by all three phases, but said, “That’s just something to look for, something we can get better at.”
The next Spider football game will be held on Sept. 11 at UR against Lehigh University.
Contact sports writer Andrew Cardounel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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