Villanova Wildcats (5-4) vs. #9 Richmond Spiders (7-2)
When: Saturday, November 14, 2015, 3:30 PM
Where: Villanova Stadium
Rhode Island’s Previous Season Record: 9-5, Lost to Coastal Carolina in Second Round of FCS Playoffs
Key Players for Richmond: #1 Jacobi Green (5-9, 192) RB., Sr.; #5 Kyle Lauletta (6-3, 208) QB., So; #12 Brian Brown (6-1, 198) WR., Jr.; #13 David Jones (6-1, 187) CB., Jr.
Scouting Report: The Wildcats homecoming will be a rough and tough game against a scary good Richmond team. In fact, the Spiders could be the best team that the ‘Cats have played all season thus far. If Villanova wants to walk away from this one, it’s going to take lots of tenacity.
It all starts with the offense for the Spiders: they are simply an offensive juggernaut. This team averages a stupendous 36.4 points per game. A lot of their victories have been due to 40+ point whoppers. This is a team that scores in bunches. The worst part about all that for the ‘Cats? They are solid in both the air and on the ground.
Richmond is versatile on offense, but they lean more towards the ground game. This ground attack is lead by the powerful Jacobi Green, who is about as good as it gets for FCS running backs. He currently sits at 933 yards rushing on 145 attempts and 12 rushing touchdowns (tied for fourth best in the FCS). He also leads the team in all-purpose yards (1,275) and points scored (74). One can immediately notice his old-school way of running the ball: hit the hole hard, no matter how clogged it is, and accelerate. His agility isn’t elite, but he does have an impressive top gear. He is very hard to tackle and has plenty of yards after contact. His matchup against ‘Nova linebacker Don Cherry will be one to watch.
In the air, Richmond is just as deadly. Quarterback Kyle Lauletta has been efficient in the air this season, as he currently has 2,458 yards passing (good for ninth best in the FCS) from 264 attempts and 165 completions. He also boasts an impressive 152.6 passer rating (14th in the FCS). Much like Jacobi Green, Lauletta plays his position the old-fashioned way. He is a tall pocket passer with great accuracy, touch, and arm-strength. He is also a clutch player if put under pressure (see Richmond’s comeback against Hampton earlier in the season). Villanova is going to have to contain him; this will be no easy task.
Every quarterback has a go to guy, and Lauletta is no exception; it’s just that his go to guy is one of the best in the country. Star wideout Brian Brown is just a behemoth at the wide receiver position. He is fifth in the FCS in receiving yards (984) off of 50 receptions, along with five touchdowns receiving. Brown is a superb deep threat and a terrific route runner. He will be giving the Villanova secondary fits. They may have contained other star wideouts before, but none possessed Brown’s talent. Look for Lauletta to feed this guy often.
Defensively, the Spiders are subpar. While they may possess a great offense, they have a rather porous defense. This Spider defense averages surrendering 26.8 points per game, along with surrendering 172.3 yards rushing per game and 218.6 yards passing per game. This is good news for a Wildcat team that has been spamming the run game as of late.
The bad news is that Richmond has a secret weapon on defense. Cornerback David Jones is the best defender on this team and a top five corner in the country. His seven interceptions leads Richmond, and is tied for second in the FCS. He is a big, athletic corner with great football IQ. Which ever wide receiver is on him will surely have a hard time.
Outlook: Villanova has to ride the run game and put together one of the best defensive efforts of the season. This is the only way Villanova will walk out with the win. The Wildcats have been clicking as of late. They need to get their run game going and not put all of the stress on Zach Bednarczyk. The defense will have a tough task of containing Brown, Green, and Lauletta, arguably the best combination of wideout, running back, and quarterback this team has faced so far this season. The best ‘Nova fans can hope for is that those guys be at least slowed down. This game has high score potential written all over it, as Richmond’s defense is porous. Look for the ‘Cats to ride the run, and try to control the clock, thereby limiting the time that the Spiders have the ball. If Villanova wants to make a statement, this is it. This is a must win game for the Wildcats, but I’m feeling a little doubtful going in. Villanova enters with a good amount of confidence and momentum, but Richmond might have just enough to come out on top.
Prediction: Villanova 21, Richmond 28