By Matt Moretti
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of www.richmondspiders.com and also includes James Madison athletic sources.
HARRISONBURG, VA. — The game certainly lived up to the national hype provided by ESPN’s College GameDay on Saturday as the No. 11/12 University of Richmond Spiders (6-1, 4-0 CAA) defeated No. 3/4 James Madison (7-1, 4-1) 59-49 in a thriller at Bridgeforth Stadium.
The Richmond offense was historically good, generating a program record 720 yards of offense led by RB Jacobi Green who ran for a career-best 236 yards to go with an astonishing five touchdowns. His yardage total ranks seventh all-time in a single-game while his five scores are tied for most in program history.
QB Kyle Lauletta had an unbelievable game of his own. He threw for a career-best 415 yards which now rank fourth all-time for a single game. WR Brian Brown caught seven balls for 204 yards, which are fifth most in school history. He became the first Richmond receiver since John Henry in 1986 to collect 200+ yards through the air.
Not to be forgotten, WR Reggie Diggs collected six passes for 128 yards while Tyler Wilkins had the best game of his career, catching two balls for 49 yards. TE Garrett Hudson caught the first touchdown pass of his career and PK Peter Yoder converted on three of four tries including career-long 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. That distance is tied for the seventh longest field goal in Richmond football history.
JMU quarterback Vad Lee, the mid-season favorite for the Walter Payton Award, threw for 294 yards, ran for 124, and had five touchdowns before leaving in the second half with a season-ending foot injury.
The Dukes won the toss but would opt to defer to the second half, giving Richmond the ball to start this one. On the first play of the game Green busted loose for a 21-yard gain, setting the tone early that the Spiders were here to play. Lauletta then hit Stephon Jacob and Diggs on consecutive plays for 10 and 15 yards, respectively, moving deep into JMU territory.
After a couple of short runs Lauletta dropped back and hit Brown for an 18-yard gain then two plays later handed the ball of to Green who finished off the drive with a two-yard touchdown. It marked the fifth-consecutive game in which the Spiders scored a touchdown on their first offensive drive of the game.
Vad Lee and the Dukes’ offense right back with a touchdown drive of their own, giving the ball back to the Spiders who moved quickly on offense but had to settle for a 46-yard field goal attempt. Yoder’s try would be short of its mark to leave this one tied 7-7.
JMU quickly made it 14-7 with a touchdown drive that lasted just 2:29 seconds and covered 71 yards. Richmond would begin the second quarter with the ball after an incomplete pass ended the first.
Lauletta hit Wilkins for eight yards to begin the second quarter then it was Green catching a ball for 14-yards two plays later. Brown carried the ball on an end-around for eight yards and Jeremiah Hamlin scampered for seven yards out of the backfield. An offensive pass interference penalty on the next play seemed to stall the drive putting Richmond back at the 50-yard line.
On the very next play Diggs found an opening for a 14-yard catch-and-run that was made longer by a facemask penalty that advanced the ball all the way to the JMU 21. Green took a handoff and galloped for 16 more yards and finished off the drive two plays later with a one-yard rush into the end zone to tie the game.
Richmond went deep in the play book to attempt a two-point conversion, running the swinging gate with four linemen lined up to Lauletta’s left. The QB took the snap and rolled right, hitting a wide-open Porter Abell to give Richmond the lead.
On the ensuing kick off Richmond surprised James Madison with an onside kick that would be recovered by the Spiders. Lauletta and company went back to work on offense and continued to flow, driving right down the field and kicking a field goal to take the lead, 18-14.
The defense finally forced a punt from the Dukes on the next drive and the offense took over with 4:49 to play in the half. Hamlin and Gordon Collins busted runs of six and five, respectively, for a first down the it was Lauletta dropping back and unleashing a 79-yard bomb to Brian Brown who strolled into the end zone untouched to push Richmond ahead 25-14. The 25 points scored in the first half at that point were already a season-high for most points in a single half. The pass was the longest of Lauletta’s career, the longest catch of Brown’s career and the longest play from scrimmage for the Spiders so far this season.
JMU took over with 3:34 left to play in the half and it was the Vad Lee show. He ran for 19 and 13 yards on consecutive plays after an incompletion then later in the drive completed three-straight passes for a total of 36 yards to move the ball inside the Richmond five yard line. Lee capped off the drive with a rushing score to make it 25-21 after the extra-point.
The Richmond offense stalled on its next drive and was forced to punt after a three-and-out. D.J. Helkowski delieved a 43-yard punt forcing the Dukes to start the drive on their own 29 with 54 seconds left in the half. On the third play of the drive Lee found Rashard Davis deep down the right side for a 71-yard touchdown, giving JMU the lead once again, 28-21.
Richmond wasn’t done though. On the first play of the drive that started with 22 seconds on the clock Tyler Wilkins collected a 41-yard pass from Lauletta, a career-long catch for the sophomore to move into JMU territory. A pass interference call put Richmond in field goal range and Yoder would convert to send this one to the locker room tied at 28.
JMU came out in the second half and drove straight down the field without much resistance and scored to take the lead, 35-28 on another Vad Lee rushing score. The Spiders took over and responded in a big way. Green collected runs of two and 12 on consecutive plays then Brown snagged a 21-yard catch before Green bounced through between the tackles and found open field for a 40-yard touchdown run. Suddenly it was tied, 35-35.
The Spider defense came up big on the next JMU possession, forcing a punt after just one first down. Andrew Clyde hurried Lee the entire drive and the Jones’; Trevor and David broke up a pass to force the punt.
After a pair of short Green runs Lauletta converted on third down to Nick Holloway then went deep once again to Brown who hauled in a 48-yard pass putting the ball at the JMU 18-yard line. Diggs jumped in on the action catching a 15-yard pass then two plays later it was Green adding his fourth rushing score of the game to push the Spiders ahead, 42-35.
JMU was forced to punt for a second-straight time on its next drive and Lauletta continued to move the offense with great success. The drive moved into JMU territory before the end of the third quarter and on the first play of the fourth Lauletta hit Diggs on the right side who broke a tackle and galloped 40 yards before getting pushed out of bounds at the two. A designed roll-out allowed TE Garrett Hudson to find an opening in the back of the end zone and he would catch the first touchdown of his career to make it 49-35.
James Madison then embarked on its longest drive of the evening. Vad Lee took some hits but managed to keep the drive moving with short passes and runs. He would leave the game for a fourth down play on the Richmond 13 and backup QB Bryan Schor put together back-to-back runs of 12 and one to punch the ball into the end zone.
Leading by just seven, the Spider took over on offense with 11:11 to play in the game. The drive moved across midfield with the clock dipping below 10 minutes and on third down Lauletta hit Brown for a first down and more to keep the clock ticking. Peter Yoder came in on fourth down and drilled a career-long 48-yard field goal to push the Spiders ahead 52-42 with 6:38 to go.
JMU marched down the field and scored a touchdown with Schor handling the offense and kicked off to Richmond trailing by just three. On the first play from scrimmage, Green took a handoff, moved between the tackles, bounced left and exploded down the sideline for 62 yards, his longest run of the season, setting up his fifth touchdown of the season and the game-clinching score. The Dukes fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Richmond recovered allowing the victory formation to put a stamp on this one.
Following this historic win Richmond will return home to face the University of Albany at Robins Stadium on Homecoming. The game will kick at 3:30 with the Spiders looking to move to 7-1 and remain unbeaten in CAA play.