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Versus Hokies, Spiders need stiff-arm Joe's unconventionally confrontational running
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Versus Hokies, Spiders need stiff-arm Joe's unconventionally confrontational running

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How many quarterbacks keep tacklers away with the stiff-arm?

University of Richmond sixth-year senior Joe Mancuso presents an uncommon, old-school challenge to Virginia Tech Saturday at Lane Stadium. Mancuso is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and his running style as a QB could be classified as unconventionally confrontational.

When Mancuso slips through the line on Richmond’s options and encounters a linebacker, his next move is more “full-speed ahead” than “duck-and-cover.”

“This is a big, athletic kid that can move around and run the football and is an accomplished passer. That’s a difficult task to tackle,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said of Mancuso, who’s from Blairsville, Ga.

Mancuso, a starter 20 times for the Spiders (2-1), over the years has been involved in some notable collisions as a ball-carrier, not something often associated with quarterbacks.

“I’m trying to get better at sliding to kind of limit those hits, but I run when I can, and I made a big emphasis this offseason to try to work on my flexibility and speed to try to utilize that part of my game,” Mancuso said.

The Spiders don’t play a fullback. Mancuso is the closest thing. On 17 carries, he averages 5.6 yards.

“For the most part, defenses kind of scheme our [offense] where they kind of limit the runs that I take and so my read will tell me to hand the ball off instead of pulling it and making a play with my feet,” Mancuso said. “I trust our running backs. I trust our offensive line. I think they’ve done a great job this year running the ball, so I have no problem handing it off.

“But I also have no problem utilizing my legs.”

Ball control underpinned by methodical running looks like UR’s best path to keeping it close in Blacksburg. Richmond rushing success would shorten the game, and allow the Spiders’ defense to rest. Often in these FCS-vs.-Power Five games, the favorites physically erode the underdogs with their inferior size and lesser depth.

“We don’t want to run [Mancuso] him 25 times. That’s not even close. But he needs to run the ball 10 to 12 times in a game,” said UR coach Russ Huesman.

The Spiders may call a half-dozen quarterback runs, and Huesman is counting on Mancuso scrambling for yardage outside the play sheet four or five times, too.

“Those plays are back-breakers now,” Huesman said. “You’ve got them all covered up, the quarterback takes off and gets 12 on third-and-10? Back-breaker.”

Richmond, ranked No. 24 in the FCS poll, and Virginia Tech (2-1) come off losses, the Spiders at Villanova (34-27), and the Hokies at West Virginia (27-21). UR operates on a lower Division I tier and Virginia Tech is projected to easily prevail at home, but this is the season to which Richmond has been building. Thirty-two Spiders are in their fourth, fifth or sixth years.

“I spent two years playing and six years coaching at that [FCS] level. I get it. You get good players, guys that are together, and good scheme and you’ve got a chance to do some special things,” said Fuente, who played two years at FCS member Murray State after transferring from Oklahoma, and was an Illinois State assistant for six years.

To Huesman, Richmond’s task at Tech jumps off the video he studied.

“The first thing is, just team speed,” he said. “When you play a [Power Five] program, the level of athletes and how well they run all the way cross the board …”

Staff writer David Teel

contributed to this report.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6233

@RTDjohnoconnor

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