The Collegian
Saturday, June 15, 2024

Football’s season opener slips away in loss to Morgan State

<p>University of Richmond's football team opens the season with a 17-10 loss against Morgan State University at the Robins Stadium on Sept. 2. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics&nbsp;</p>

University of Richmond's football team opens the season with a 17-10 loss against Morgan State University at the Robins Stadium on Sept. 2. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics 

More than 6,000 were in attendance at Robins Stadium as the University of Richmond football team commenced their 2023 season against Morgan State University. 

Unfortunately for the Spiders, in their first matchup against the Bears since 2014 and just second matchup all-time, they were unable to take home the victory, losing 17-10. 

“We gotta reevaluate what we’re doing for sure,” UR Head Coach Russ Huesman said in the postgame press conference. “Do things that we can do, so whatever we can do really well, we need to go ahead and continue working on those things. Whatever we’re not doing very well, we need to not practice anymore.”

After losing the coin toss to Morgan State, the Spiders came out of the gates ready to go offensively. On their first drive of the game, the Spiders ran 12 plays for 75 yards and scored the inaugural touchdown of the season. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Kyle Wickersham ran the ball into the endzone on a one-yard quarterback keeper to put UR ahead early. 

However, just when the Spiders thought they had the momentum and about three and a half minutes later, the Bears ran seven plays for 63 yards and wound up in the endzone, tying things up 7-7.

On the Spiders’ following drive, Wickersham threw an interception which handed the ball back over to the Bears. Morgan State could not capitalize on UR’s turnover, however, as the Spiders’ defense held strong on a 3rd and 13 play which led to a punt.

From there, the Spiders punted and the Bears punted on their next possession once again. 

With just under five minutes in the first half, redshirt junior kicker Andrew Lopez missed a 44-yard field goal, but redshirt first-year D’Angelo Stocker intercepted the Bears’ quarterback, giving the Spiders possession of the football with two minutes and forty seconds to go in the half.

Coming off the interception, the Spiders’ drive ended in another field goal attempt, but this time it was blocked, making Lopez 0-for-2 on field goals. 

Morgan State missed its field goal attempt with four seconds to go in quarter two, bringing an end to an evenly-matched first half.

The next score of the game would not come until late into the third quarter. With 1:26 left in the quarter, Lopez finally connected on a field goal and the Spiders pushed ahead 10-7. 

Before taking the lead, the Spiders fumbled the ball but also recovered two of the Bears’ fumbles defensively, reminiscent of the back-and-forth nature of the contest. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Donovan Hoilette recovered the first fumble and redshirt senior defensive lineman Marlem Louis recovered the other.

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Eventually, the score showed 10-10, and UR had possession of the ball after forcing a three and out defensively with a little over seven minutes left in gameplay. 

But, on a second down play, a Morgan State defender sacked and stripped the ball from Wickersham, causing a fumble and a 10-yard rushing touchdown for the Bears on the following play. 

UR had a chance to tie things up as the Spiders were set to receive a punt and start their possession with two timeouts left and the two-minute warning still yet to come. But on the return, redshirt senior running back Savon Smith muffed the punt and another Spiders fumble ensued. 

When the Morgan State fans started singing the song “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” in the stands, the atmosphere shifted drastically in Robins Stadium. 

The Bears did fumble on their final play, giving the Spiders one last chance with one second remaining in regulation, but when the buzzer sounded, UR was still down a score to finish things off. 

“I think the biggest thing is that we’re not the same team from last year,” redshirt senior Tristan Wheeler said in the postgame press conference. “We can’t rely on what our record was last year and what we did. We have to put that same effort in this season that we did the previous season.”

Last year, the Spiders made their first FCS playoff appearance since 2016, winning a game against Davidson College in the first round and losing to Sacramento State University in the second round. 

After losing several key players to graduation like starting quarterback Reece Udinski, wide receivers Leroy Henley and Jakob Herres and running back Aaron Dykes, who played preseason with the Minnesota Vikings, the Spiders will have to find a new identity and fill the gaps in their roster in order to make another playoff run this season. 

UR’s next game is away against Michigan State University at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 9. 

“I mean, we gotta improve, we gotta get better and we gotta go to work, try to put a great game plan together for these guys, try to put them in the best situations we can to compete,” Huesman said.

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

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