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No. 15 UR views visit from No. 1 JMU as 'an opportunity to prove who we are'
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No. 15 UR views visit from No. 1 JMU as 'an opportunity to prove who we are'

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The last time the University of Richmond carried a defensive streak more impressive than its current one was 2015. The Spiders beat VMI 42-10, Maine 48-17, Elon 27-14 and Rhode Island 37-12 in consecutive games. During this spring-semester season, No. 15 UR (3-0, 3-0 CAA) defeated William & Mary 21-14, Elon 38-14, and Elon again 31-17.

The 2015 string of defensive superiority was snapped by No. 4 James Madison, which scored 49 on the Spiders. Richmond, however, had the last giggle, winning 59-49 on JMU’s homecoming in a CAA game for the ages. UR’s Jacobi Green ran for 236 yards and five touchdowns, Kyle Lauletta threw for 415 yards, and Brian Brown and Reggie Diggs combined for 332 receiving yards.

Momentum from that late-October win in 2015 over the Dukes helped thrust Richmond toward the FCS semifinals (33-7 loss at eventual champion North Dakota State). UR is looking for comparable propulsion Saturday, when No. 1 JMU (4-0, 2-0 CAA) visits Robins Stadium. The noon meeting will be available on NBS Sports Washington.

“I think it’s an opportunity to prove who we are, and prove that we can play with anybody,” said Spiders senior linebacker Tyler Dressler. “I think what we expect to gain in the final outcome is the CAA championship. We expect nothing less, and that is our goal, and we have an opportunity to go out there and prove ourselves and earn it this weekend.”

Dressler’s sentiment regarding this as a barometer game grows from Richmond having twice beaten a 1-5 team that’s without a victory over a scholarship opponent (Elon), and a 1-2 opponent that has topped only Elon (William & Mary).

The Spiders’ chances to measure up against JMU in recent years have resulted in deep disappointment. The Dukes won 48-6 in 2019 and 63-10 in 2018.

“I think we’re way more prepared than we were, way more hungry, and I think we’re an overall better team going into this weekend,” said UR linebacker Tristan Wheeler.

JMU coach Curt Cignetti warned his defense to be on alert because of the running threat posed by Richmond quarterback Joe Mancuso (171 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per carry) as well as his improved passing efficiency (60.2% completion rate and zero interceptions).

The Dukes look about like they always do, in the estimation of UR coach Russ Huesman, and he noted the team speed that has distinguished JMU’s program from the remainder of the CAA for years.

Richmond's most productive runner and receiver suffered ankle injuries last Saturday’s win over Elon. According to Huesman, Aaron Dykes (193 rush yards, 5.2 yards per carry) will play against the Dukes. The status of Leroy Henley (13 catches, 13.5 yards per reception), a transfer from East Carolina, is to be determined.

On Sunday, April 18, the NCAA Division I football championship committee members will place 10 automatic qualifiers (league champions) in the 16-team playoff bracket, and then select six at-large qualifiers. The result of Saturday’s JMU-at-UR game will almost certainly have an impact on the committee’s business.

Dressler recently saw a bracket projection that designated Richmond as one of the final teams excluded from the playoff field.

“That just kind of showed me that we don’t have the respect throughout the nation that I think we deserve,” he said. “I think we’re going to prove this Saturday that we do belong.”

joconnor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6233

@RTDjohnoconnor

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