As we at Streaking the Lawn are kicking off our Virginia Cavaliers Football Opponent Preview series, up first, logically, is UVA’s season opening opponent, Richmond. A fairly familiar foe, the Spiders head to Charlottesville for the first time in four years looking for an upset that would get their season off to a fantastic start.
In 2021 the Spiders had a pretty middle of the road season. With wins over Howard, Lehigh, New Hampshire, Towson, Delaware, and William & Mary, Richmond finished seventh in the 12 team CAA. In fact, similar to Virginia, the Spiders had a very up and down, back and forth season. The Spiders started the campaign off with two blowout wins, followed that up with five straight losses, then ended the year on a positive note with four straight wins.
Looking back, 21-10 and 34-27 losses to Virginia Tech and Villanova were surely missed opportunities to get big wins over good teams.
Dual threat senior quarterback Joe Mancuso led the way for the Spiders on offense as he threw for 1,677 yards on the season and rushed for an additional 355. Fellow senior Aaron Dykes led the team in rushing with 505 yards gained on 124 carries while junior Savon Smith joined Dykes as a 500-yard rusher, wracking up that total on 102 attempts.
Senior Leroy Henley and redshirt freshman Jasiah Williams were the team’s two top receivers — finishing with a combined 77 receptions for 907 yards — while Dykes was also a threat as a pass catcher from the backfield with 25 catches for 309.
Defensively, senior lineman Darius Reynolds sacked the opposing quarterback 9.5 times over 11 games. His departure is significant for the Spiders and leaves a whole in their defense. Fellow d-lineman Kobie Turner also departed as he transferred to another one of UVA’s opponents this season, Wake Forest. Fortunately for Richmond, two of the team’s starting linebackers Philip O’Connor and Tristan Wheeler and a number of veteran secondary members including Aaron Banks, Aamir Hall, and Angelo Rankin Jr.
Key returners: RB Aaron Dykes, RB Savon Smith, WR Leroy Henley, WR Jasiah Williams, DL Aidan Murray, LB Tristan Wheeler, DB Aamir Hall, DB Aaron Banks
Key departures: QB Joe Mancuso, DL Darius Reynolds, DL Kobie Turner, LB Tyler Dressler
Key new faces: QB Reece Udinski (Maryland), WR Jakob Herres (VMI), Offensive Coordinator Billy Cosh (VMI)
After offensive struggles plagued Richmond last season, Richmond Head Coach Russ Huesman made it his prerogative to improve the Spider attack for the 2022 season. So, he went out and cherry-picked talent from the high-flying VMI offense. For starters, Keydet OC Billy Cosh joins Huesman’s staff along with the Southern Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year with wide receiver Jakob Herres. Then, to top it all off, Richmond nabbed former VMI quarterback Reece Udinksi who spent a season with Maryland after playing at VMI since 2017.
Obviously those three all have plenty of experience playing and coaching alongside one another and should immediately improve the Richmond offense. Udinski is the all-time passing leader at VMI and is 6th all-time in the Southern Conference. In fact, his 368 consecutive passes without an interception in 2019 is an FCS record. So, combining Udinski, Herres, and Cosh again at Richmond with two solid running backs in Savon and Dykes and a pair of capable receivers in Henley and Williams means this Spider offense should be scary for the rest of the CAA.
Then, with experience among the secondary and linebackers, the only question remains on either side of the line of scrimmage as the defensive line hopes to make up for the departures of Reynolds and Turner.
Altogether, Richmond shouldn’t be taken lightly as UVA’s season opening opponent. The Spiders have an offense that — if the ball bounces the right way — could pose serious problems for a UVA defense that was historically bad last season. Meanwhile, the Richmond defense may lack some of the pass rush it had last season. But there’s enough talent on the back end that could keep the Spiders relatively competitive come September 3rd.
UVA’s all-time record vs. Richmond: 9-1
Last meeting: September 1st, 2018 — UVA 42 - Richmond 13
The last time these two teams played each other came in Virginia’s season opener of the 2018 season. It was both Bryce Perkins and Brennan Armstrong’s first appearance for the Wahoos as UVA dominated the contest via its ground game. Perkins threw for 185 yards and two scores while running for 123 and two more touchdowns. Jordan Ellis ran 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns himself while Olamide Zaccheaus (six catches for 101 yards) and Hasise Dubois (three catches for 36) reeled in scoring passes.
Brennan Armstrong also threw his first career passes for UVA in that game, finishing 1-2 for six yards through the air along with three rushes for 13 yards.