CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia will try to shake bad memories of two years ago when it hosts Richmond on Saturday evening. The two teams meet in the season opener for the second time in three seasons, and two years ago it was the Spiders, an FCS squad, who dominated the Cavaliers with a 37-20 win.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: None
That loss was Bronco Mendenhall’s first game as Virginia’s coach and his team went on to go 2-10 in 2016 but rebounded last year with a 6-7 campaign that ended with an appearance at the Military Bowl.
Mendenhall wouldn’t agree that he’s looking forward to getting revenge on Saturday, instead telling reporters that the game “has special meaning more in relation to it being year three (under his direction) rather than the same opponent.”
Richmond enters the 2018 season after going 6-5 under first-year head coach Russ Huesman last season. It was a tough 2017 season for the Spiders, who at one point were ranked as high as No. 7 but suffered four one-possession losses over the course of the season.
ABOUT RICHMOND (2017: 6-5)
Richmond enters the season with a big void to fill at quarterback after Kyle Lauletta (3,737 yards, 28 TDs, 12 INTs, 153.2 QB rating) was drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. The Spiders will turn to junior Kevin Johnson, a former three-star recruit who led Richmond to two FCS playoff victories when Lauletta was injured in 2016.
The 4-2-5 defense is led by senior defensive lineman Andrew Clyde, who has been named to three preseason All-America teams, and returns both of its starting linebackers - seniors Justin Rubin and Dale Matthews Jr.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (2017: 6-7)
Coach Mendenhall isn’t overly optimistic about this season, publicly saying “I believe we have 27 ACC-caliber football players on our roster today” back in June. One of those 27 players will hopefully be quarterback Bryce Perkins, a junior-college transfer from Arizona Western who led his team to an NJCAA runner-up finish in 2017.
The defense - the strength of the team last season, returns eight starters, including inside linebacker Jordan Mack who had 115 tackles in 2017 (fifth in the ACC).
1. Mendenhall is 9-1 in his career against FCS competition.
2. Virginia RB Olamide Zaccheaus has at least one reception in 29 straight games - a streak that started on Nov. 7, 2015.
3. The Spiders ran for 1,229 yards last season and return their top four running backs.
PREDICTION: Virginia 38, Richmond 28