UR drives for turnover-free ignition
Spiders have been hurt by costly giveaways recently
University of Richmond tailback Deontez Thompson carried the ball to Stony Brook’s 13 three weeks ago. He lost a fumble. SBU returned it 87 yards for a touchdown.
Two weeks ago against James Madison, Dukes cornerback Jimmy Moreland intercepted a Spiders’ pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown.
Last Saturday against Delaware, Richmond tight end Will Geraghty went airborne for a catch at the Spiders’ 34. A Blue Hen stole the ball as Geraghty descended. Delaware returned it for a touchdown.
These episodes illustrate how things have gone for Richmond (2-4, 0-3 CAA) heading into Saturday night’s game at Albany (2-3, 0-2 CAA). With a 36-10 loss at Stony Brook, a 63-10 loss to JMU and a 43-28 loss to Delaware, the Spiders are 0-3 in league play for the first time since 2013.
“That’s been such a key to where we are these last three games,” UR coach Russ Huesman said of turnovers. “You never want to turn the ball over. But when you turn it over [in your territory], or in the red zone, it’s a killer. And we’ve had those.”
In their past two games, the Spiders committed 11 turnovers (three fumbles, eight interceptions). They’ll try to clean it up at Albany behind sophomore quarterback Joe Mancuso, making his second college start after stuffing a stat line against Delaware: 27 completions in 37 attempts, 489 passing yards with three touchdowns, five interceptions, and 15 carries for 71 yards.
“He’ll be further along, and I do think we’ll be further along offensively in what we want to do with him,” Huesman said.
Turnovers have been woven into debilitating starts to CAA games for Richmond. The Spiders fell behind 16-3 in the second quarter at Stony Brook; 21-3 to JMU midway through the second quarter; and 16-0 to Delaware after about five minutes.
Huesman said he has shuffled his practice routine, with the goal of immediately involving his players in uptempo situations, hoping that would lead to more concentration early in games.
“We’ve kind of realized this issue. Last week in the pregame locker room, it was a little bit different than it was in weeks before, kind of getting more focused,” senior offensive lineman John Yarbrough said. “We’ve got to just take what we do in practice and just do it in the game, because we practice well.
“You and I both know that practice doesn’t make championships. Playing well in games does.”
Mancuso, a 6-foot-4 215-pounder, was Richmond’s leading rusher against Delaware, and Huesman seems OK with that. While Chattanooga’s coach 2009-16, Huesman’s offenses often featured running quarterbacks. Behind Mancuso, Richmond scored three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes versus Delaware.
“There are always those nerves at the beginning of the game,” Mancuso said. “Once you get that first hit, or the first play, out of the way, you begin to become more comfortable.”