Dec. 18, 2008

By Amy Farnum Novin

Richmond is making its first-ever appearance in an NCAA national championship contest when the Spiders face Montana for the 2008 Division I Football Championship Subdivision title on Dec. 19 at Finley Stadium/Davenport Field in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Spiders, who are appearing in the FCS playoffs for the seventh time and third time in the last four years, will be vying for the school’s first NCAA championship in any sport.  Richmond has reeled off eight consecutive victories since suffering a narrow 38-31 loss to James Madison Oct. 11, which went on to enter the playoffs as the top-seed. 

The Spiders have downed three consecutive conference champions in the FCS playoffs – Eastern Kentucky (Ohio Valley), Appalachian State (Southern Conference) and Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley Football).

Not only is Richmond new to this type of success, but the Spiders are doing it under the direction of first-year head coach Mike London.  London, who graduated from Richmond in 1983, spent six of the last seven years as an assistant coach for the University of Virginia.

CARRYING ON TRADITION:  Montana, co-champion of the Big Sky Conference with Weber State, has won 10 straight games entering the matchup against the Spiders. 

The Grizzlies, participating in their 16th consecutive FCS playoff, will be gunning for their third national title.  They also won championships in 1995 and 2001, and it will be their sixth appearance in the title game, losing to James Madison in their last national championship contest in 2004.  The Grizzlies are 27-15 in 19 NCAA playoff appearances. 

Richmond and Montana have met just one time in series history, as the Grizzlies topped the Spiders 37-17 in an NCAA quarterfinal game.

OVER AND OVER:  One common factor for both participating teams is their ability to make the most of their opportunities. 

Richmond ranks third in the nation with a +1.47 turnover margin, while Montana is eighth with a +1.2 turnover margin.

The Spiders have forced 41 turnovers, producing 156 points following opponent mistakes.  Richmond also shattered the school’s single-season interception record, grabbing 28 this year, including 13 in the last four games.  The defense has scored five touchdowns directly off turnovers.

GROUND GAME:  Establishing the running game is always an important key to any victory, so it will be interesting how that unfolds.

The Spiders enter the contest allowing just 97.7 rushing yards per game (14th in nation), and have given up 100 yards on the ground in only four of their 15 contests.  In fact, until surrendering 146 yards to Northern Iowa last week, the Spiders had held seven straight foes to less than 100 yards rushing.

Montana has rushed for over 100 yards in all but one of 15 games this season, while sophomore running back Chase Reynolds has reached the century mark in each of the Grizzlies last eight contests.  Reynolds has compiled 1,263 yards and 17 touchdowns during that stretch.