Thursday, September 2, 2010

game preview: Richmond

Date/Time: Saturday, September 4; 6:00 PM


History against the Spiders: 25-2-2

Last matchup: UVA 16, UR 0; 9-6-2008; Highlights.

Last week: None

Line: N/A

Opposing blogs: none

Injury report: none

This week's uniform: Orange jersey, blue pants

Richmond season preview

Today's actually kind of a big day. An anniversary of sorts. Ten years ago today, the Hoos opened the season by opening the new and improved Scott Stadium against BYU. And that means ten years ago today, your humble blogger was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed first-year at his first UVA football game. The contest was one of those soul-crushing defeats that make you cast your eyes to the heavens and go whhhyyyyyyyyy?????? But I like to think it had a purpose. I like to think I walked into Scott Stadium a UVA student pulling for the Cavaliers, and walked out a Hoo.

Really, the parallels are impossible to ignore. History does repeat itself. Ten years ago this week, a new stadium was christened. Nine years ago this week, against this very opponent, Al Groh coached his first home game at UVA; Mike London will do the same on Saturday. Two years ago this week, against this very opponent, UVA debuted throwback orange jerseys; this week, they'll be in orange for the first time since that game.

And you'll see a lot of the same faces. A young defense put up a yeoman's effort in shutting out the Spiders two years ago, and many of the same players return to play equally big roles. Chase Minnifield made a key interception in the end zone, the first of his career. Matt Conrath and John-Kevin Dolce got up close and personal with the UR quarterback. Zane Parr also chipped in a big sack. UVA opens up a new era on Saturday, but don't be surprised if you're getting deja vu all the same.


- Continue to let history repeat itself. The formula that worked in 2008 should work again. The UVA defense camped out in Richmond's backfield and never left. They shut down Richmond's running game, and snuffed out drives with big sacks - six in total, and 10 TFLs. The offense was just good enough to keep the defense fresh. Frustratingly unproductive on the scoreboard, yes, but Peter Lalich was reasonably efficient (if slightly turnover-prone) and the running game kept the clock moving. This team is built very, very similarly. Richmond's offensive line is inexperienced, and UVA's D-line is stout, so I expect a lot of the same.

- Press Kevin Grayson and make his life miserable. Grayson gashed the UVA defense in 2008 to the tune of 8 catches for 111 yards. He was the only real threat to the shutout all day. Grayson comes in banged up with a sprained knee but will play, although the injury is serious enough that there was speculation he wouldn't. Room to run has a way of making bad knees feel better; put the large, physical Ras-I Dowling on him and hit him at the line, every play, and he should be neutralized.

- Avoid turnovers. This is the sort of things that's usually obvious; I mention it because of the seven that doomed UVA in last year's opener against W&M. Seven! It was a shocking number then and it's still ridiculous now. Richmond doesn't have a good enough offense against the UVA defense to continually march down the field, so simply punting them deep as opposed to handing them the ball at the 50 is probably enough for the win.


- Throw interceptions. Fumbles happen, but interceptions are the big worry here. Verica has that little issue about throwing them, and Richmond's corners are athletic and largely the strength of the defense. They have very solid outside linebackers, too, and all of these guys will be dangerous if the ball gets to their hands. A pick-six is a major, major concern.

- Mistakes and jitters. Both sides are playing for new coaches and using new systems. But UVA's systems are newer and the stakes are higher. By no means is this a mistake-free team. And I don't mean turnovers still - it's the little things like being in the wrong place at the wrong time, forgetting your assignment, getting overexcited and committing dumb penalties. UVA is the more talented team, and there aren't many times we'll be able to say that this year. But not by much: Richmond is still the 6th-ranked team in I-AA, and they probably match up well against your average mid-major I-A team. They'll capitalize if UVA screws up.


History repeats. In 2001, a missed PAT was the margin of victory for UVA. In 2008, UVA clung to a 3-0 lead for three quarters before breaking open a little cushion midway through the fourth. In neither instance did either team break 20 points, and I think that'll be the case again. UVA is the better team and should win, and the UVA D-line against an inexperienced Richmond O-line will be the big difference. Again, UVA linemen will spend a lot of time in Richmond's backfield, making life miserable for the Spiders. But again, the offense has shown no reason to believe it'll be productive. I'm cautiously optimistic: another close win, with another 16 or 17 points, appears in the offing. But too close for comfort.


Wake Forest vs. Presbyterian, 6:30
Miami vs. Florida A&M, 7:30

Florida State vs. Samford, 12:00
Georgia Tech vs. South Carolina State, 1:00
Boston College vs. Weber State, 1:00
Clemson vs. North Texas, 3:30
NC State vs. Western Carolina, 6:00
Duke vs. Elon, 7:00
North Carolina vs. LSU, 8:00

Maryland vs. Navy, 4:00
Virginia Tech vs. Boise State, 8:00

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