The Collegian
Sunday, September 25, 2022

Spiders start football season with loss against UVA

<p>The Spiders faced the Cavaliers for the first time since 2018. Photo by Keith Lucas and courtesy of Richmond Athletics.</p>

The Spiders faced the Cavaliers for the first time since 2018. Photo by Keith Lucas and courtesy of Richmond Athletics.

The University of Richmond football team lost its season opener 34-17 against the University of Virginia on Saturday. 

A little over 41,000 people were in attendance at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia, and both Cavaliers and Spiders fans alike were ready to cheer on their squads for the first game of the 2022 season. The last time UR faced UVA in football was on September 1, 2018, when the Cavaliers emerged victorious in a similar fashion as Saturday. Then, UVA won 42-13. 

To begin the first quarter, the Spiders and Cavaliers were evenly matched, as both teams had drives resulting in a punt. But, with 6:27 remaining in the quarter, Savon Smith, a redshirt junior running back, got in the endzone after receiving a hand-off from graduate quarterback Reece Udinski, which put the Spiders up 7-0 — the first of Smith’s two scores in the game.

However, the Spiders’ lead was short-lived, as the Cavaliers scored three unanswered touchdowns — its first coming 26 seconds after the Spiders’ first score. It brought the score to 21-7 with 13:00 to go in the first half. 

“We had to play better on defense for sure,” UR head coach Russ Huesman said in the postgame press conference. “I think we played probably good enough on offense. We weren’t as explosive, but we got first downs, and so I was proud of that, but defensively, we gotta do a better job.”

The Spiders eventually answered with a 45-yard field goal from redshirt junior kicker Jake Larson, but the Cavaliers would reach the end zone once again to put UVA up 28-10 at the half. This came after the Spiders committed a costly defensive holding penalty that put UVA at its own 14-yard line, which would become a theme for UR as the game progressed. 

“There were some critical penalties called during the course of the game,” Huesman said. “I think Aamir [Hall] had three of them out there and we gotta eliminate those. But glad we got two turnovers. We didn’t turn the ball over. We didn’t have stupid penalties on offense or defense, other than the three.”

Coming out of the locker room after halftime, the Spiders showed a surge of momentum, causing two turnovers in the first five minutes. The first was a fumble forced by redshirt senior linebacker Philip O’Connor and recovered by redshirt senior defensive back Aaron Banks. The second was an interception that was also caused by Banks. 

With just over 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Spiders were down 28-17 and had possession of the football after the two turnovers by the Cavaliers. But on back-to-back drives, the Spiders endured turnovers on downs. The first time after a missed 48-yard field goal, and the second time after failing to get the necessary yardage when going for it on fourth down. 

From there, the Spiders never gained back their momentum, and UVA scored once more, making it 34-17 and putting a cap on the first game of the 2022 campaign. 

Redshirt junior Tristan Wheeler said in the press conference that he and his teammates try not to get “psyched out” when playing schools with high-caliber players like UVA.

“We know their quarterback is all this, all that, watchlist here and there, NFL player,” he said. “But, like I said, we’re all here, we all deserve to be here. We all do the same thing. We all train the same way, put our cleats on the same way. We’re just dudes playing football.”

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The Spiders will play their home opener at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 10, where they will look to bounce back against Saint Francis University.

Contact sports writer Jimmy James at jimmy.james@richmond.edu.

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