Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s note: This story is courtesy of Richmond and Illinois State athletics. Photo courtesy of Pinola Photography.
NORMAL, Ill. – The University of Richmond football (10-3) team will continue its pursuit of a national championship thanks to a 39-27 defeat of No. 2 seed Illinois State on the road.
Jacobi Green rushed for 138 yards and three scores with a receiving score mixed him to give him four for the game as he guided the No. 6-seeded Spiders to the victory down the stretch in the NCAA Division I Football Championship quarterfinals.
With the win the Spiders snapped a 19-game home winning streak for the Redbirds.
Richmond now awaits the winner of the North Dakota State/Northern Iowa matchup, which will kick off from Fargo, N.D. at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon. North Dakota State is the four-time defending national champion and the No. 3 seed this season.
Brian Brown had a banner day with a 141 yards receiving on just five catches while Kyle Lauletta was 18-30 for 369 yards through the air, his fourth 300+ yard game of the season. Reggie Diggs caught five balls for 80 yards, putting him north of 900 yards for the second-straight season. Peter Yoder was 2-2 on field goal tries, hitting from 19 and 24 yards.
The defense held All-American running back Marshaun Coprich to just 30 yards rushing and limited the high-powered offense of Illinois State to just 89 yards in the first half. LB Trevor Jones led the team with nine tackles and Omar Howard came up with the second interception of his career.
The opening drive for the Spiders was a rocky one. A holding penalty on the first play of the game set up a first and 20 in the early going but a 35-yard pass from Lauletta to Porter Abell on third and 18 put the Spiders at midfield.
Lauletta then found Brown two plays later for a 34-yard gain that set up first and goal. Three short runs set up a 19-yard field goal for Yoder. The All-CAA PK converted to try to give UR an early 3-0 lead.
Richmond’s first tilt against the high-powered Redbird offense ended with the first sack in the career of Ben Schrider who came off the edge and buried Roberson before he could escape. Illinois State punted and the Richmond offense came back on the field.
Lauletta converted another third and long with a 30-yard pass to Brown who made an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch.
At the end of the play, Lauletta took a shot that forced him out of the game and David Broadus was forced into action.
Green carried on first down for 18 yards and Broadus followed that up with a 10-yard rush of his own. Green rolled out two more runs for seven total yards.
Broadus then carried and found a big hole, gaining the remaining 13 yards for his fourth rushing score of the season. Yoder converted to extra-point to make it 10-0.
After another three-and-out the Redbirds punted and pinned UR inside its own five-yard line. Broadus threw for a first down then Lauletta re-entered under center.
On his very first play he went deep for Brown but would be intercepted. Illinois State maintained possession until the end of the first quarter.
The Redbirds marched right down the field to begin the second and put their first points on the board with a touchdown pass from Roberson to Anthony Warrum.
Richmond responded with another field goal then the two teams combined for three-straight punts.
The Spiders took over on offense with 2:08 to play in the half and began the drive with a Green two-yard rush.
Lauletta then completed passes of 17 and 15 to Seth Fisher and Diggs, respectively before Rocco took his first timeout.
Garrett Hudson then worked his way open and caught a ball for 10 yards. Richmond called another timeout after an incompletion and set up a deep ball down the middle to Brown who hauled it in for a 41-yard gain.
Green rushed the ball in from the two on the next play to give Richmond a 19-7 lead heading into the break.
The Spiders outgained ISU 344-89 in the first half, holding national player of the year finalist Marshaun Coprich to just 15 yards rushing.
Green gained 44 yards on the ground and Brown collected 141 yards through the air on just five catches. Lauletta was 12-21 for 244 yards while David Broadus was 1-1 for 30 yards with 29 yards rushing.
Illinois State began the second half in possession of the football. The Redbirds marched down the field pretty quickly but stalled once they crossed mid-field.
The Spiders remained stout and defense and forced a field goal try from 49 yards out that went wide to the left. Richmond took over on offense from its own 32-yard line but punted before reaching midfield.
Penalties forced Illinois State to start its next drive from its own eight-yard line but Robertson hit long passes on third down multiple times to set up first and 10 from the UR 28.
Roberson dropped back to pass and missed an open man in the end zone on first down then with five wide found his man over the middle for a 23-yard gain.
On first and goal Coprich took a hand off and found the end zone to make it 19-14 with 5:36 left in the third.
Richmond worked quickly after Lauletta took a sack and loss of eight on the first play of the next drive.
Fisher rushed for four yards and Lauletta followed that up by hitting Tyler Wilkins for a 24-yard gain and first down.
After an incompletion to Brown, Lauletta found Diggs for a 20-yard gain. On the next play, Lauletta rolled left, following blocks then spun and threw back across the field to Green who had nothing but daylight ahead of him. He ran untouched for 35 yards and a touchdown.
Yoder missed the extra-point but Richmond had taken a 25-14 lead.
The third quarter came to a close with ISU in possession at the two-yard line.
A pair of negative plays led to a third and goal from the five-yard line. Roberson found an open man in the end zone but the play was wiped away by an ineligible receiver downfield penalty.
On the very next play Roberson threw over the middle but Omar Howard stepped in and intercepted the pass, his first pick of the season to turn it back over to the Richmond offense.
Lauletta hits Diggs for six to start the next Spider drive then after a Broadus two-yard rush Richmond had a third and two to deal with.
Illinois State brought the pressure and Lauletta flipped the ball out to the right towards Gordon Collins who reached up and made an outstanding one-handed catch to extend the drive.
Later, Lauletta found Diggs for 27 more and Richmond called timeout. On the next play, Green took a hand off moving to his left and appeared to be bottled up but suddenly broke free of the pile and nothing but green grass in front of him.
Green crossed the goal line for his single-season record-tying 20th rushing score to make it 32-14 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Illinois State moved into the red zone on its next drive with 7:13 to play in the game.
Roberson looked for the end zone on first down but the pass fell incomplete. On second down the Redbirds found Coprich on a screen for a touchdown to make it 32-21 with 6:39 to play.
Richmond took just over one minute off the clock on its next drive and punted to ISU on fourth and five.
A holding penalty on the return forced ISU to start its drive from the 15 with 5:15 to play. ISU drove straight down the field and scored a touchdown to cut the Richmond lead to just five. A two-point conversion run by Roberson was stopped short to leave the spread at five.
Gordon Collins began the next Richmond possession with a 41-yard kick off return to set up great field position for the offense. Jacobi Green, just as he has all season, took over from there.
Green carried the ball three times for seven, 10 and 28 yards with the last going for his third rushing score of the game and fourth total to put an exclamation point on this one. Illinois State was unable to put together a drive, turning the ball over on fourth down. Richmond finished this one out in the victory formation.
ISU was led by the passing attack of Roberson, who was solid and accurate throughout most of the night on his way to a 25-of-42 finish for 370 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
His main target, Anthony Warrum, finished with nine catches for 152 yards and one score, while Christian Gibbs hauled in a career-best eight catches for a career-high 96 yards.
However, the running game was completely shut down by Richmond, as Coprich was bottled up for just 30 yards on 14 carries with one score.
Illinois State finished the season with 10 wins and a second-straight MVFC championship, the first time in school history the program has captured back-to-back conference titles.