Constant pressure from the University of Richmond’s energized defense, coupled with their youthful quarterback’s speed and precision, helped lead the Spiders to a decisive 31-14 victory over the Tribe Nov. 18. With the loss, the College fell to 3-8, their worst finish in 23 years.
p. Entering the game, senior running back Elijah Brooks stood just 88 yards away from the 1,000-yard mark for his season. The situation was eerily similar to last year, when Brooks entered the final week needing only 57 yards for 1,000. He fell short in 2005, and would come up shy again as he succumbed to an ankle injury midway through the second quarter, leaving the field with just six carries totaling 19 yards.
p. “Elijah had a bad ankle going in. He hurt it last week and didn’t practice at all this week. He went as long as he could, but he got it twisted or turned or something again and that was it,” Tribe Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “I didn’t even think about getting the yardage. I’m just thinking about him not being able to finish up his last game his senior year. Here is a guy who has laid it on the line and really played hard his whole career. I really felt bad for him.”
p. Brooks’ stellar career at the College came to a close with a total of 2,536 rushing yards, enough to put him sixth on the school’s all-time rush list. Sophomore rusher DeBrian Holmes took over the tailback duties in Brooks’ absence, but struggled for negative 3 yards against a strong Richmond defensive effort.
p. “It is as well as we have played in a long time,” Richmond Head Coach Dave Clawson said. “Our defense stepped up and played the way that they are capable of playing. We made some plays in the passing game. We didn’t turn the football over; we created turnovers. We won the field possession battle. We did things that a good football team should do.”
p. Laycock, whose career mark against Richmond moved to 19-8, echoed Clawson’s statement.
p. “I thought Richmond played real well. I don’t see why they’re not in the playoffs. If they play like that, they won’t lose anything,” Laycock said.
p. The Tribe came out sharp, forcing consecutive three-and-outs for the Spider offense and setting up a field goal attempt at the Richmond 20-yard line. But the field goal was blocked and the Tribe would not mount another impressive drive until the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach.
p. Richmond finally broke through on their third possession as redshirt freshman quarterback Eric Ward completed two third-down conversions including a 20-yard pass on third and 20 from the Tribe 46-yard line. Still reeling from the unexpected first down, the Tribe defense was fooled two plays later by a halfback pass that went 24 yards for the first score of the game.
p. The touchdown would open the floodgates, as the next three Richmond possessions resulted in two touchdowns and a field goal while time expired in the first half. When the dust settled, Richmond had put together 218 yards of total offense and 24 points in just over 16 minutes.
p. While Ward was able to move the ball effectively against the College’s defense, junior Tribe quarterback Mike Potts struggled to get anything going against Richmond. Potts continued to regress from an impressive performance two weeks prior against Towson, finishing the day with only six completed passes for 40 yards and two interceptions.
p. “[The Richmond defense] got a lot of pressure on [Potts],” Laycock said. “They were twisting a little bit in there. They were in his face. He really didn’t have much time to sit there and go through a progression and read the defense. He was forced to go with his first look and take it.”
p. Nearing the end of the third quarter with the Tribe still trailing 24-0, Laycock replaced Potts with sophomore Jake Phillips. Phillips breathed life into the offense by passing for 107 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for another score after the Tribe recovered an onside kick with six minutes to play.
p. In the end, Phillips’ effort was not nearly enough, as the book closed on a disappointing season for the Tribe. However, Laycock used the fourth quarter rally as an example of the hard work and resilience his team has shown throughout the season.
p. “I told the players, I don’t like the results, but I don’t fault their effort and I don’t fault their attitude,” Laycock said. “That’s the one thing about this year — the players have hung in there, they have never had a bad attitude about things. They try hard, sometimes things don’t go their way, but give them credit for that.”