The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Albany steamrolls UR, ending the Spiders’ FCS playoff run

<p>Richmond Spiders during football game against Albany during the second round of FCS playoffs. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics.&nbsp;</p>

Richmond Spiders during football game against Albany during the second round of FCS playoffs. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics. 

If you had told someone the University of Richmond football team would still be playing in December after starting their season 2-3, they probably wouldn’t have believed you.

Well, the Spiders did make it to December for a second-straight season, advancing to the second round of the FCS playoffs after defeating North Carolina Central University 49-27 on Nov. 25. 

Unfortunately for UR, the second round would end up stopping the team in its tracks just like it did around this time last year. The Spiders lost to the University at Albany 41-13 on Dec. 2. 

The Spiders had some chances offensively to start the game, but not capitalizing early against a team from the same conference, with the same record, would go on to hurt the team down the stretch. 

UR had an opportunity to take the lead first, but a missed field goal from redshirt junior kicker Andrew Lopez kept the score tied at 0-0 with 6:55 remaining in the first quarter. From there, Albany’s offense woke up and went on to seemingly put the game away before the Spiders could catch up.

Just like that, with 7:37 to go in the second quarter, Albany had scored 3 unanswered touchdowns, leaving the Spiders with a 20-point hole to climb out of. 

On the Spiders’ next possession, following the Great Danes’ third touchdown, redshirt sophomore quarterback Kyle Wickersham threw an interception, which the Albany defender returned 71 yards to the opposing end zone for a pick-six. This increased the Great Danes’ lead to 27, leaving a large deficit for UR to overcome.

With one second to go in the first half, Wickersham found redshirt junior wide receiver Nick DeGennaro in the end zone for the Spiders’ first score of the game. However, despite a last-minute score heading into halftime, one first half touchdown compared to the Great Danes’ four would prove insurmountable come the second half. 

UR did have a chance coming out of the break to decrease the deficit, as junior defensive back Bryson Parker intercepted Albany’s quarterback on the Great Danes’ first drive of the second half.

But, first-year quarterback Camden Coleman, who replaced Wickersham to start the third quarter, fumbled after being sacked, which led to Albany taking back possession. The Great Danes then went down the field and scored, making the score 34-7. 

UR would go on to score one final time on a touchdown pass from Coleman to junior wide receiver Jerry Garcia Jr. to make things 34-14. However, by the time the third quarter had come to an end, Albany had also scored again, dashing any hopes of a trip to the FCS playoffs quarterfinals for the Spiders. 

Of the three quarterbacks who saw the field for UR, Coleman finished the game as the Spiders’ leading passer with 186 yards and 2 touchdowns on 15 of 20 passing. Wickersham threw for 76 yards and 2 interceptions, and redshirt junior Jackson Hardy threw for 9 yards. 

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DeGennaro led the Spiders offensively, tallying 13 receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown throughout the game for UR. Redshirt senior running back Savon Smith could only muster 23 yards rushing and Wickersham a net of 0 yards after losses, though, showing the Spiders’ struggles offensively. 

Despite such a crushing playoff loss to close out the 2023 football season, the Spiders’ season was nothing to laugh at, given how things began. 

After losses against Morgan State University and Michigan State University to open up the year and in a season where the program was coming off its first FCS playoff berth since 2016 no less, it looked as if the Spiders were in for a rude awakening. 

However, starting 2-3 was no match for the Spiders’ grit. The team closed out the year 6-0 en route to winning a piece of the Colonial Athletic Association Championship and making a second-straight appearance in the FCS playoffs

As UR commentator Matt Smith said on the ESPN Richmond 106.1 broadcast after the Spiders went up 38-17 against Elon University back on Nov. 11, what may have looked like a pipe dream in September was looking like a reality in November. The Spiders turned a season that appeared as if it were getting away from them into a trip to the playoffs. 

“Every year, we want to leave [the program] better than when we found it,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Gavin Lamp said in a weekly press conference Nov. 29. “And that was kind of how I’ve thought about this program the past five years, is leave the program for the next set of kids coming in better than I found it.”

In addition to making the postseason, several players also made All-CAA teams. 

Redshirt senior offensive lineman Ryan Coll, redshirt senior linebacker Tristan Wheeler, senior punter Aaron Trusler and redshirt junior special teams player Jabril Hayes made the First Team All-CAA, DeGennaro and graduate defensive back Aaron Banks made the Second Team and redshirt junior defensive lineman Jeremiah Grant and redshirt senior defensive lineman Marlem Louis made the Third Team

With some key contributors from the team graduating, only time will tell how the Spiders will fare in the 2024 season. But, now that a large portion of the roster returning have more than one playoff game under their belt – some three or four games – the Spiders will have some understanding of what it takes to be successful come this fall. 

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

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