CAA Championship Preview: #7 William and Mary vs. #14 Richmond

Before you read this preview, we invite you to watch the video above. That’s right, it’s ESPN’s Todd McShay, the former Richmond quarterback, again going off on how great the Spiders are–and of course we had to add our two cents at the end of the video. We’re sick and tired of hearing about what a great football team Richmond has. They’re right behind the Tribe in the standings, but they’ve lost the last two games, and are vulnerable. It’s time to prove the doubters wrong, defeat Richmond, and win the CAA outright. This is our time. Let’s get it.

Last Meeting with the Tribe: For the second straight year, William and Mary faced off against Richmond in a win and you’re in game. If W&M won, the Tribe would have qualified for the FCS playoffs. And last year, for the second straight season, the Tribe fell to Richmond. In a relatively sloppy game, William and Mary had three turnovers, which was largely out of character for a well-coached Jimmye Laycock team. Ultimately, the team would fall in a heart breaker to Richmond on Senior Day, 34-20. The Spiders went on to make the playoffs and the Tribe was left packing for a second consecutive season.

Richmond this year: After losing 51-20 in its opening game against Maryland, Richmond went on a seven game winning streak, including a huge win over the then 3rd-ranked James Madison Dukes in a game that was so big it brought ESPN’s College Gameday to Harrisonburg. Richmond was riding high after its victory against JMU, catapulting them to a top-10 FCS ranking. However, since they defeated JMU, the Spiders have gone just 1-2, including two consecutive losses on the road at UNH and Villanova. It’s gotten so bad that they just came out with brand new helmets for the W&M game to help get them out of their slump! Okay, maybe that’s not the exact reason why, but we don’t like them nonetheless–because, well, it’s Richmond.

Richmond is led by its high powered offense, which is 2nd in the CAA in scoring offense (34.8 ppg), 2nd in total offense (471.5 yds/game), and 1st in pass offense (276.6 yds/game). Standing at 7-3 (6-2 in CAA), this team is hungry and out to claim a share of the CAA title, and will look to do so this weekend in the friendly confines of Robins Stadium.

Griffin Stabbing Spider
Let’s get this image circulating. Feel free to download it and distribute as needed, courtesy of the William & Mary Sports Blog. Roll Tribe.

Richmond players to watch: Much like W&M’s Kendell Anderson, Richmond running back #1 Jacobi Green was forced into a starting running back role after their starter Seth Fisher went down with injury earlier this season. And like Kendell, Green has not disappointed. He is an imposing force, checking in at 5’9″ 192 pounds, and is a bulldozer running back who loves to plow over opposing defenders. He is second in the CAA in rushing yards (1068), 1st in touchdowns (14), and tied for first in average yards per rush (6.2).

To give you some perspective, Kendell Anderson is first in the CAA in rushing yards (1171), 2nd in touchdowns (13), and is tied with Green for yards per rush at 6.2. Not only will Anderson and Green be facing off for the CAA Championship this Saturday, but they also will be facing off for the CAA’s rushing crown.

Under center for the Spiders is redshirt sophomore #5 Kyle Lauletta. Lauletta has filled in very well for Richmond after they lost Michael Strauss to graduation a year ago. He currently leads the CAA in passing yards (2741), passing yards per game (274.1/game), and is second in the CAA in passing efficiency (150.8).

wm vs richmond

His favorite target happens to be junior #12 Brian Brown. Brown has been very impressive this season, leading the league in receiving yards (1079) and receiving yards per game (119.9/game). The Spiders’ coach has gone as far as saying Brown is the best player in the entire FCS; that’s saying something. Richmond also has another stud receiver in senior #11 Reggie Diggs, who has 732 yards on the season and averages 73.2 yards per game, both good for third in the conference. These two are very hard to stop.

The other side of the ball features defensive back #13 David Jones. Jones has a CAA leading 7 interceptions, including an insane 4 interceptions against Albany. He also has 9 passes defensed on the season, and looks to slow down the Tribe receivers this weekend.

The Spiders defense also is headed by stud linebacker junior #46 Omar Howard. Howard is third in the CAA with 93 tackles on the season, while also adding 2 sacks. He will do his best this weekend to try and slow down the Tribe’s dynamic duo of Kendell Anderson and Mikal Abdul-Saboor. Overall, Richmond checks in at 7th (out of 12) in terms of overall defense. W&M will need to exploit them.

The Tribe will need DeAndre Houston-Carson and the rest of the Tribe defense to force turnovers against Richmond. [photo: tribeathletics.com]
The Tribe will need DeAndre Houston-Carson and the rest of the Tribe defense to force turnovers against Richmond. [photo: tribeathletics.com]
Keys to Victory:

  • Slow down Jacobi Green: Richmond RB Jacobi Green has been an absolute monster since taking over for Seth Fisher earlier in the season. Stopping him will be paramount to the Tribe’s success on Saturday. The Tribe will be in full force in this one, as linebackers Luke Rhodes, Zach Fetters, and Ian Haislip are all finally healthy and back in the lineup. DT’s Tyler Claytor and Isaiah Stephens will also look to clog up the middle and force Green to the outside, where he is less effective.
  • Win the turnover margin: As always, winning the turnover margin is paramount in huge games such as these. Last season, the Tribe turned the ball over 3 times to Richmond’s 0 turnovers. Winning the turnover battle will play a big role in this game, and might be the difference between the Tribe claiming the CAA title outright or falling to Richmond for the third straight season.
  • Ground and Pound: With two of the top running backs in the league in Mikal Abdul-Saboor and Kendell Anderson, expect this game to be a slug fest. Richmond is 7th in the league against the run, giving up around 165 rushing yards per game. If the Tribe can establish the run, it will open up the pass and the play action, keeping Richmond’s high-powered offense off of the field. Time of possession will be key in this one, and we like the Tribe’s chances with two talented players in the backfield.
  • Special Teams: Changing field position and making clutch field goals will be absolutely critical. Thankfully, the Tribe has the best special teams combo in the CAA in Nick Dorka and Hunter Windmuller. Windmuller leads the league in punting, averaging 43.9 yards per punt, and Dorka has gone 15/19 on the season, making the most field goals in the CAA. Richmond, on the other hand, has a punter who ranks near the bottom of the league in net yards (39.4). On top of that, their field goal kicker is reportedly injured, and will not play Saturday. In comes a freshman kicker in what will be the biggest game of the season. Advantage: Tribe.

Viewing: 12:00 PM on CSN

Prediction: William and Mary 34, Richmond 31
The seniors on this team will not forget the past two seasons when Richmond sent them packing. They will take that anger and energy into this one and come out victorious. That’s right, in Richmond’s house. I mean, the third times the charm, isn’t it? We say the Tribe scores 30 for the 7th straight game, holds on in the end, and wins its 7th straight to CLAIM THE CAA TITLE OUTRIGHT! LET’S GO TRIBE

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