#3 Villanova Wildcats (7-1) vs. #14 Richmond Spiders (6-2)
When: Saturday, November 1, 12 p.m.
Where: E. Claiborne Robins Stadium, Richmond, VA
Coverage: Comcast Sportsnet
Richmond’s Previous Season Record: 6-6
Key Players for Richmond: #2 Michael Rocco (6-3, 228) Sr., QB; #1 Jacobi Green (5-9, 192) Jr., RB; #4 Seth Fisher (6-2, 232) Jr., RB; #24 Aaron Roane (6-1, 230) Sr., LB; #55 Justin Williamson (6-5, 265) Sr., DE
Record vs. Similar Opponents: 1-0, Beat Rhode Island 37-0 on 10/18
Scouting Report: The Richmond Spiders were rolling along the season just fine. Outside of a few losses to FBS school Virginia and a three-point loss to New Hampshire, one of the top teams in the FCS; they have done a solid job so far this season. Richmond has found themselves #13 on the Sports Network Polls and #14 on the Coaches’ Poll. They are going into the third week of the post-Michael Strauss era. Strauss was on the Walter Payton Award watch list until he went down with an injury at Albany. At the conclusion of medical testing and scanning, it was declared that the senior quarterback was not going to return for the rest of the year. That paved the way for Michael Rocco, who transferred from Virginia into Richmond’s program prior to this season. Rocco has not delivered up to Strauss’ standards but he has shown competence under center.
Rocco has made two starts, both against weaker CAA teams. He was solid against Rhode Island, throwing for 162 yards and a touchdown pass. However, against Elon, he threw for 296 yards but had no touchdown passes and two interceptions. If Rocco is able to have a good day, it will be problematic for opposing defenses. Richmond takes a balanced approach, so they will try to punish defenses with a variety of options. Richmond boasts a deep receiving corps, so expect Rocco to throw to any combination of Reggie Diggs, Brian Brown, Rashad Ponder, and Stephen Barnette. Diggs and Brown lead the way, with both receivers tied for the most yardage (568). However, each of these four receivers has logged over 30 receptions this season. On the ground, the Spiders will have the tandem of Jacobi Green and Seth Fisher to establish a run-presence. Green is a flashy, speed back who has carried the ball 72 times for 431 yards and four touchdowns. His six yards-per-carry is pretty decent. On the other hand, Fisher will add a more of a bruising, power element. Expect him to get the ball in close yardage or goal line situations. He has gotten more carries (95) and has slightly less rushing yards than Green at 420. However, he has seven touchdowns on the season so far.
Their strong core of linebackers set the tone for a defensive front that has only given up an average of 22.2 points per game. Eric Wright leads the spiders in total tackles, with 47. He also has three sacks and three tackles for loss. Another linebacker, Aaron Roane has the second most tackles on the team, but also has 4.5 sacks and three interceptions to show his playmaking ability on defense. Seniors Justin Williamson and Evan Kelly anchor their defensive line. Williamson is Richmond’s top sack artist, with seven so far this season. Kelly, the bullish 285-pound lineman, has also caused his fair share of havoc. He has chipped in five sacks and five tackles for loss. Lastly, Richmond has a solid crew of defensive backs who look to get involved on every play. Justin Grant is a ball hawk. He will make the tackles and the big hits but has also proven himself to be a good pass defender. As for special teams, Peter Yoder is a pretty good kicker. He has made 75% of his field goal attempts (15-20) and has proven that he can make the long ones in the 40-49 yard range.
Outlook: This is another tough road game for the Wildcats. Much like the William & Mary game this year, don’t be surprised if the Spiders’ keep it close and give a good fight in defending their home turf. They have a nicely balanced offense whose effectiveness will be determined by how well Rocco can do as signal caller. He has been shaky, but now he will be truly tested against the Wildcat defense. Rocco will have no time to waste on struggling against Villanova, who has a dynamic offense and defense. Expect Richmond to try and hog the ball in order to keep John Robertson and Villanova off of the field for as long as possible. However, for that to work, Rocco is going to need his ‘A’ game. Villanova was sloppy in the first half against Morgan State, allowing the Bears to hang around at the expense of penalties and turnovers. Andy Talley knew it wasn’t a clean game, but they came back strong in the second half. Surely, he has gone over the mistakes by now and has made it a point to make sure they don’t happen again this week. There’s no doubt in my mind that Villanova will score, it’s just a matter of how well they keep Richmond in check. It’ll be close, but the difference maker will be a drive or two that sticks the dagger into the Spiders.
Prediction: Villanova 28, Richmond 21