By Marty Gordon
On paper, this week’s Virginia Tech opponent, the Richmond Spiders, are not in the same league or in this case division as the Hokies. The question is whether the Hokies can rebound from a late-game loss to West Virginia.
Head coach Justin Fuente said Richmond provides his team with a tremendous challenge this week to come back home to play a team that was really close to being undefeated coming into this game.
“They were like two minutes away in the Villanova game away from being undefeated,” Fuente said at his press conference. “A veteran football team coming into our place that’s very well-coached on both sides of the ball and special teams. They have four or five defensive linemen that would play for us. They have skill players, scheme. We’ll get some guys healthy to be back to full strength there because we’re going to need that this week.”
Richmond did pull off a rare 24-14 win in Blacksburg on Sept. 7, 1985, the first time they had defeated Tech. They were coming off play in the 1984 I-Double-A 12-team national playoffs. The win over the Hokies pushed the Spiders into the number-1 ranking in ’85, and they reeled off six straight wins after the Blacksburg win
The school has been successful in the lower division and was the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision champion for the 2008 season.
Saturday’s game marks the 51st meeting between the two teams but the first meeting since 1986. They first met back on Nov. 13, 1897, when Virginia Tech posted a 26-0 victory. The Spiders trail the all-time series by an 8-34-4 margin, but their eight victories are the most for Richmond against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference in program history.
Richmond is 2-24-1 all-time in Blacksburg and is coming off that loss to Villanova and is 2-1 after wins over Howard and Lehigh.
The Spiders remain ranked in both the national polls again this week, entering today’s game at No. 21 in the American Football Coaches’ Association (AFCA) poll, dropping three spots from last week. The Spiders fell to No. 24 in the Stats Perform FCS poll this week, again dropping three spots
Richmond players to watch include redshirt junior Aaron Dykes, who has been one of the top kickoff return specialists in the country during his Spider career as well as being the Spiders’ starting running back for 17 games in his career. Dykes returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown last week against Villanova, his third career kickoff return for a touchdown. He leads the Colonial Athletic Association with five touchdowns in three games.
Linebackers Tyler Dressler and Tristan Wheeler have been a force together on the inside over the past two seasons. They became the first Spider linebacker duo to each record 100 or more tackles in the same season since 2008 when they accomplished the feat in 2019.
Redshirt senior quarterback Joe Mancuso has played in 38 games in his career at quarterback, making 20 starts. He ranks seventh all-time in program history with 6,009 yards of total offense, passing for 4,687 yards and rushing for 1,322 yards in his career. He ranked second in the Colonial Athletic Association in total offense from a quarterback in 2019, trailing only Villanova’s Daniel Smith.
Mancuso’s 4,687 yards passing ranks eighth while his 360 completions rank seventh all-time in Spider history. He is currently tied for eighth all-time with 34 passing touchdowns. During his career, he has accounted for 51 career touchdowns, 34 passing and 16 rushing and receiving.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Isaac Brown enters today’s game leading the Spiders with 12 receptions for 193 yards and two scores in the first three games.
Redshirt senior defensive lineman Kobie Turner was named to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List and is one of just 35 members from the NCAA FCS level selected to that list and one of only three from the Colonial Athletic Association, being joined by Mike Greene from James Madison and Andre Miller from Maine.
The Spiders did play a short-spring season, going 3-1.
Predicted score: Virginia Tech 38, Richmond 28.