BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech promptly asserted its superiority, and then did not look so superior the rest of the afternoon against the University of Richmond, an FCS member that lost its starting quarterback on snap No. 2.
On a sunny Saturday at Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech won 21-10 over the team picked to finish fourth in the CAA.
The Spiders did not physically fade as the game progressed and played ball control with runs and short passes, two feats not often accomplished in these FCS vs. Power Five contests. Richmond finished with more rushing yardage (160-106).
“We didn’t come into this game thinking, ‘Let’s just survive. Let’s just get through it.’ We came to this game expecting to win the football game,” said UR linebacker Tyler Dressler, who had a sack among 12 tackles. “I think we played a heck of a ballgame. I’m really proud. ... Virginia Tech is the type of team that’s going to try to run the ball down your throat.”
Virginia Tech (3-1) scored on a 60-yard punt return by Tayvion Robinson. Otherwise, Richmond (2-2) minimized big plays. The Hokies sustained a sufficient number of drives to complement Robinson’s TD return and get by, but this was no vanquishing job over a lower-level program, as might be expected.
“We could have been a little stouter in run game [defense], but we handled that part of it just fine,” said Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente. “We’re talking about a group that gave up 10 points, and one time we gave them the ball at the [16-yard line following an interception].”
UR quarterback Joe Mancuso, a pass and run threat, left after the Spiders’ second snap with an injury to the index finger on his right hand and did not return. Richmond coach Russ Huesman said he would know more about the extent of the injury Monday.
Mancuso, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound sixth-year senior, was injured when brought down following a 29-yard run. He spent most of the day with his right hand wrapped, and in a sling, wearing a sweat suit on UR’s sideline.
“I hate it for Richmond. That’s a very good player they lost today,” said Fuente.
The Hokies received the opening kickoff and covered 65 yards in five plays for a touchdown, a suggestion that this could be a blowout. Richmond acclimated to the Hokies’ speed, stiffening on defense, and made it 7-7 early in the second quarter. Aaron Banks intercepted a pass by backup Knox Kadum. UR got the ball at Virginia Tech’s 16 and scored on Savon Smith’s run of that length.
Huesman repeatedly warned of the peril associated with open-field situations, such as kick returns and punt returns, for FCS teams against Power Five opposition because of speed and depth differences.
“We kicked it back across the field to the middle of the field, kind of where we weren’t covering,” said Huesman. “We had to keep that ball at the sideline.”
Robinson’s TD punt return with 4:23 left in the second quarter gave the Hokies a 14-7 lead.
In place of Mancuso, Richmond went with law-school student Beau English, an Air Force transfer who came to the Spiders in 2019 and has played periodically, primarily when Mancuso has been unavailable because of injury. English, more runner than passer, has made three starts. He completed 15 of 23 for 77 yards.
“I thought that was a great effort by our guys up front,” Huesman said. “I thought we ran the ball effectively, and we really played the run real well.”
The teams traded five-minute scoring drives in the third quarter, with UR netting three points and Virginia Tech seven.
“Shout out to Virginia Tech. Those guys are a great team. But just going through this game, we definitely think that we can step on the field with anybody at any time,” said English.
The Spiders, who are ranked No. 24 in the FCS poll, hadn’t played at Virginia Tech since 1985, when UR won 24-14 and soon after was No. 1 in the Division I-AA (FCS) poll. The Hokies and Spiders last met in 1986 in Richmond.
Richmond 0 7 3 0 — 10
Virginia Tech 7 7 7 0 — 21
VT—T.Turner 10 pass from Burmeister (Romo kick), 13:10.
RICH—S.Smith 16 run (Larson kick), 9:22.
VT—T.Robinson 60 punt return (Romo kick), 4:23.
RICH—FG Larson 38, 10:02.
VT—Blumrick 1 run (Romo kick), 5:08.
First downs 15 19
Total Net Yards 237 318
Rushes-yards 36-160 33-106
Passing 77 212
Punt Returns 0-0 4-66
Kickoff Returns 0-0 1-18
Interceptions Ret. 1-5 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 15-23-0 17-29-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-14 2-16
Punts 9-38.667 6-44.667
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 7-55 4-35
Time of Possession 33:03 26:57
Rushing–Richmond, Dykes 12-58, S.Smith 11-53, Mancuso 1-29, English 10-22, (Team) 2-(minus 2). Virginia Tech, Holston 8-37, Burmeister 11-35, Blackshear 7-28, King 3-4, Blumrick 3-4, T.Robinson 1-(minus 2).
Passing–Richmond, English 15-23-0-77. Virginia Tech, Burmeister 17-27-0-212, Kadum 0-1-1-0, P.Moore 0-1-0-0.
Receiving–Richmond, Johnson 3-27, Garcia 3-14, S.Smith 3-12, Henley 2-14, Dykes 2-(minus 3), Brown 1-12, Williams 1-1. Virginia Tech, Turner 6-102, T.Robinson 6-76, Blackshear 2-20, K.Smith 1-10, Gallo 1-3, Holston 1-1.