FCS Playoff Preview: William & Mary vs. Richmond

WM vs UR playoffs

9 wins 2 losses. Some call it Richmond’s record vs. W&M since the year 2005. We here at the W&M Sports Blog like to call it motivation. The Tribe secured itself a second-round FCS playoff matchup against Richmond with a win over Duquesne on Saturday. Suffice to say, even though the Spiders have absolutely owned us over the past decade plus, this game means more than all the rest combined. This is the playoffs. And the Tribe is hungry.

Last Meeting with the Tribe: William & Mary posted its worst offensive game of the season on the road against Richmond this year. It was the final game of the regular season, and had the Tribe won, the team may have locked up a number 4 seed in this year’s FCS playoffs. However, quarterback Steve Cluley‘s career-high 3 interceptions proved too much to overcome, the defense couldn’t stop the run, and the Tribe got dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball. There really wasn’t much to say about this one. Richmond came out firing, and even as W&M held the potent Richmond offense to just 20 points, the Tribe’s ineptitude on offense couldn’t be overcome.

Tribe running back Kendell Anderson rushed for a mere 47 yards, and fellow running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor didn’t rush for much either, with 44 yards on the ground. Richmond running back Jacobi Green, however, ran at will and shredded the Tribe defense for 217 yards and 1 touchdown on an insane 36 carries. Opposing QB Kyle Lauletta passed for an efficient 14/23 with 171 yards and 2 touchdowns. With the Spiders’ success on the ground, Lauletta really wasn’t asked to do much, but he shined when needed.

W&M didn't do a good job along the offensive and defensive lines the first time around against the Spiders. [photo: the Collegian]
W&M didn’t do a good job along the offensive and defensive lines the first time around against the Spiders. [photo: the Collegian]
Richmond in the Playoffs: Since the Tribe last saw Richmond just two weeks ago, the Spiders went on to secure the 7th overall seed in this season’s FCS playoff bracket. If not for a couple bad losses toward the end of the season to Villanova and New Hampshire, the Spiders surely would have secured a top-4 seed in the playoffs. Even still, they secured a first round bye, and came in seeded to play the winner of the Duquesne vs. W&M game–which of course turned out to be the Tribe. This will be the Spiders’ first taste of playoff action this season, as they play host to the Green and Gold at home in Robins Stadium this Saturday.

Richmond’s Players to Watch: Richmond is led by its high-octane offense, which is ranked 2nd in the CAA in scoring offense (33.5 ppg), 2nd in total offense (464.8 yds/game), and 1st in pass offense (267 yds/game). Richmond running back #1 Jacobi Green 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 currently leads the CAA in rushing yards per game at 116.8 yds/g, is tied with W&M’s Kendell Anderson at 15 rushing touchdowns apiece, and is second in the CAA, again only to Anderson, in total rushing yards with 1285 to Anderson’s 1355.

Under center for the Spiders is redshirt sophomore #5 Kyle Lauletta. Lauletta has filled in incredibly well for Richmond after the team lost Michael Strauss to graduation a year ago. Lauletta currently leads the CAA in passing yards (2912), passing yards per game (264.7/game), but has also passed for the most interceptions, tied at 10 with a few other CAA quarterbacks. Even still, he completes around 63% of his throws and fits very well into Richmond’s offensive scheme.

Let's see less of this on Saturday. Roll Tribe. [photo: the Collegian]
Let’s see less of this on Saturday. Roll Tribe. [photo: the Collegian]
Lauletta’s favorite target is #12 Brian Brown. Brown has been more than impressive this season, leading the league in receiving yards (1180) and receiving yards per game (118/game). He’s a serious Walter Payton Award contender this year. The Spiders’ head coach has gone as far as saying Brown is the best player in the entire FCS; that’s saying something. Brown torched the Tribe for 7 receptions, 101 yards, and 1 TD two weeks ago and looked absolutely unstoppable. Richmond has another stud receiver in senior #11 Reggie Diggs, who has 781 yards on the season and averages 71 yards per game. Diggs hauled in 5 receptions for 49 yards and 1 TD against the Tribe this season.

The other side of the ball features defensive back #13 David Jones. Jones has a CAA-leading 8 interceptions, including an insane 4 interception game against Albany and one interception against W&M’s Steve Cluley in the regular season closer. Jones is a true shut down player, and Cluley better look out for #13 on Saturday. The Spiders defense is also led by stud junior linebacker #46 Omar Howard. Howard is second in the CAA with 107 tackles on the season, while also adding in 2 sacks. Howard notched a team-high 14 tackles against W&M in the game earlier this year. When it comes down to it, Richmond’s big players stepped up in the big game, and were the difference. The Tribe failed to show up. But it’s time for a second shot this Saturday.

The boys up front will need to win the battle in the trenches on Saturday for the Tribe. [photo: the Collegian]
The boys up front will need to win the battle in the trenches on Saturday. [photo: the Collegian]
Tribe Keys to Victory:

  • Dominate the Line of Scrimmage: W&M got absolutely man-handled against Richmond two weeks ago–so much so, that head coach Jimmye Laycock said that the Tribe lost the game in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Our stellar offensive line had a bad day, especially failing to open up holes for Kendell Anderson. The defensive line did not get to Richmond’s quarterback, as he had all day to throw. They also allowed Richmond’s Jacobi Green to run all over them. The Tribe HAS TO dominate the line of scrimmage in this one, or else the season is over.
  • Don’t Settle: Get the ball in the end zone. Richmond has a great offense. Surprisingly, Richmond was held two touchdowns under their average against W&M in the season closer–but don’t expect that to repeat itself Saturday (though we of course hope it does). In order to keep up with the Spiders, W&M will need to continue racking up points on the board; this means we can’t settle for field goals. The Tribe did a great job of this against JMU and Duquesne this year, and now it’s time to do the same against Richmond.
  • Play with FIRE: Richmond has OWNED us. Yes, we put that in capital letters. There’s no two ways about it. As much as we like to think that we have a great football program, it doesn’t mean much if we lose to Richmond every single year. But this game means more than all the last decade combined. Win, and we end Richmond’s season and come within 2 games of the National Championship game. The National Championship game. William & Mary, led by senior captains Andrew JonesLuke RhodesDeAndre Houston-Carson, and Mikal Abdul-Saboor will need to give it their all and FIRE UP the Green and Gold on Saturday.

Viewing: The game will be broadcasted on ESPN3.com Saturday at 12:00

Prediction: William & Mary 38 Richmond 35
We finally do it. The Tribe hasn’t beaten Richmond since 2011, in what was actually a meaningless game without playoff implications. Despite W&M’s regular season loss to the Spiders, this year’s Tribe football team has what it takes. The boys will come out FIRED UP and ready to go. See you Saturday. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

 

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