Season Finale Preview: William and Mary vs. #7 Richmond

wm-richmond-2016

Last week’s game against Towson truly was a tale of two halves. W&M took a 21-10 halftime lead, before mustering a paltry 3 points in the entire second half.  The defense didn’t fare much better in the second half, allowing an alarming 24 points through the third and fourth quarters. But what can we say, it’s been that kind of year for Tribe football. Final score: 34-24 Towson.

This week, William and Mary welcomes the 7th-ranked Richmond Spiders to Williamsburg for the annual Capital Cup game. Sadly, W&M’s arch-rival has absolutely owned them in recent years. The Green and Gold will need to play a complete game of football in this one if they want to have a shot at the upset. But Richmond was beat by Stony Brook this year–a team that W&M was able to knock out a couple weeks back. It’s certainly possible for a down Tribe team to knock out the Spiders, especially in a season-ending rivalry game. It’ll be tough, but nonetheless possible! We believe. Beat the ticks!

Last Season wm-feathersvs. Richmond

Last season's Playoff game vs. Richmond wasn't fun for Tribe fans. [photo: richmondspiders.com]
Last season’s Playoff game vs. Richmond wasn’t fun for Tribe fans. [photo: richmondspiders.com]
Sigh. Do we have to relive this? Okay fine. Last season the then 8-2 Tribe headed to Richmond looking to claim the CAA title outright and potentially earn a bye in the first round of the FCS Playoffs. Unfortunately for W&M faithful, William and Mary could not pull out the road win to claim the CAA outright, but would still go on to claim a share of the CAA title along with JMU and Richmond.

Turnovers doomed the Tribe in its first meeting with the Spiders, as QB Steve Cluley accumulated 3 interceptions. Richmond played mistake-free football, as their QB Kyle Lauletta threw 0 INTs and their RB Jacobi Green ran wild, finishing with 217 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Richmond defense held William and Mary in check, as W&M would not even record a touchdown, finishing the game with a 20-9 end score.

In the two teams’ second meeting last season, William and Mary again traveled to Richmond–this time in the second round of the FCS Playoffs. William and Mary was playing in a game for its 11th straight week, so we know that fatigue definitely played a factor. Coming off a first round BYE in the playoffs, Richmond blew out the Tribe at home, winning 48-13…Let’s not get in to it. Moving on.

Richmond  Richmond This Year

Richmond came into the season with a lot of hype, and they have lived up to it. The Spiders currently sit at 8-2 (5-2 CAA), and are the 7th-ranked team in the country. The Spiders started the year off with a very impressive 37-20 win over in-state rival and FBS member UVA. Richmond led from start to finish and dominated UVA in all facets of the game; the game was never really close.

Richmond has since gone 7-2 in FCS play, pulling out very close victories over Albany (36-30 in 3 OT) and Towson (31-28). The biggest hiccup of the year for the Spiders came against Stony Brook, in their first CAA game of the year. After a dominating victory over UVA and a shutout of Norfolk State, nobody expected Stony Brook to have a chance in this one. Yet, Stony Brook put an eye-popping 42 points on the board and absolutely blew out Richmond, winning by a final score of 42-14. That is still a puzzling result to us, but perhaps Richmond was looking past Stony Brook; as we all know, this is something you can never do in such a strong conference such as the CAA. Any team can pull out an upset on any given week (W&M vs. Elon this year…never forget).

Richmond’s other CAA loss recently came against in-state rival JMU, in a battle of two top ten teams. JMU ended up beating Richmond 47-43 in an instant-classic shootout, where it appeared that whoever ended the game with the ball in their hands would win. Suffice to say, the loss against JMU wasn’t a bad one, consider the Dukes are currently ranked #5 in the nation.

The Spiders are a very good team overall, ranking 2nd in the CAA in Total Offense and 3rd in Total Defense, and #1 in Pass Defense. They are led on offense by Preseason Offensive Player of the Year QB Kyle Lauletta, and are led on defense by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year David Jones. The team is deep from top to bottom, and to say that the Spiders will pose a formidable challenge for William and Mary on Saturday would probably be an understatement.

Richmond Richmond’s Key Players

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Kyle Lauletta has been the best QB in the CAA over the last two years, currently leading the league in passing. [photo: richmondspiders.com]
  1. #5 QB Kyle Lauletta: Last season, Richmond maintained a balanced attack with Lauletta and RB Jacobi Green. This year, Richmond relies a bit more on the Preseason Player of the Year Kyle Lauletta and the passing game, and he has not disappointed. Lauletta has 2915 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 8 INTs. He has thrown 800 yards more than the next highest passer in the CAA, Maine QB Dan Collins. Lauletta averages almost 300 passing yards a game. It’s safe to say W&M’s 2nd ranked pass defense will be put the test on Saturday.
  2. #46 LB Omar Howard: Omar Howard is one of the leaders of this Richmond defense, and leads the team with 71 tackles. He also has 8 tackles for loss and has added a sack on the year. Howard will be put to the test this weekend trying to shut down Tribe running back Kendell Anderson.
    Through two games against the Tribe last season, Richmond WR Brian Brown finished with 142 yards and 1 TD. [photo: richmondspiders.com]
    Through two games against the Tribe last season, Richmond WR Brian Brown finished with 142 yards and 1 TD. [photo: richmondspiders.com]
  3. #12 WR Brian Brown: Brown was a preseason First Team All-CAA selection this season, and for good reason. Brown leads the Spiders and the CAA in receiving yards, and has 1100 yards on the year with 9 touchdowns. He averages an insane 110 yards receiving per game, and has 300 more yards receiving than anybody in the CAA. Richmond’s Head Coach Danny Rocco has repeatedly said that he is the best player in all of the FCS. And he might be right.
  4. #98 DL Winston Craig: Winston Craig ranks 6th on the Richmond Spider defense with 49 tackles, and he leads the team in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (9.5). In fact, Craig ranks second in the CAA in sacks, and will be an imposing force for the Spiders on Saturday. W&M’s Offensive Line better beware of #98.

wm-feathersKeys to Victory

  • Play Loose: William and Mary has lost to Richmond in its last 5 matches, and 10 of the last 12 meetings. The past 3 years, this final game of the season carried a lot of weight in terms of playoff implications. In both 2013 and 2014, William and Mary needed a win vs. Richmond to qualify for the FCS playoffs. In 2015, the Tribe needed a win to clinch the CAA outright. This year, William and Mary sits at 4-6, and has absolutely nothing to lose. The offense is completely healthy (sans Connor Hilland), and the defense is slightly better than expected (minus the run defense). There should be absolutely no pressure for the Tribe on Saturday, and we are hoping that the team plays loose and up to its potential in this one.
  • Limit the Duo of Lauletta-Brown: Kyle Lauletta and Brian Brown form the best QB-WR duo in the CAA. William and Mary has the second ranked pass defense in the CAA. Tribe DBs Aaron Swinton and Trey Reed have a tall order in slowing down Lauletta and Brown on Saturday. There is no question that these two will make plays, but if the Tribe can slow them down in any way, the team will have a chance at victory.
  • Establish the Running Game: Tribe RB Kendell Anderson will need to have a big game on the ground for the Tribe to pull off the upset. Establishing the running game will be crucial for the Tribe to keep Richmond’s high-powered offense off the field. And second, Richmond ranks #1 in the league in pass defense, so William and Mary is not likely to get much going through the air. Run early, run well, and run often. W&M’s Offensive Line will be key on Saturday.

tv-emoji Viewing: When and Where

The game will televised on the American Sports Network (ASN) at 12 PM

W&M Sports Blog Prediction

Tribe 27 Richmond 24

Because we’re complete homers and a little loopy toward the end of the season. And because anything is possible during a rivalry game in Williamsburg. Let’s kick it back to 2011, when W&M last beat Richmond (at home in a meaningless late-season game, much like this year). See you at Zable this Saturday! And in Kaplan for the Basketball game vs. Presbyterian. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

 

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