RALEIGH, N.C. – The No. 12/15-ranked University of Richmond football team fell to the NC State Wolfpack, 23-21, in a last-minute heartbreaker Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium.
With the setback, Richmond’s record falls to 1-1 on the season, while the Wolfpack improve to 2-0 on the year.
“It is obviously disappointing,” commented second-year head coach Danny Rocco. “I think we did enough things to put ourselves in a position to win the football game. When you look at a game like this, it is never one thing or one play. I think there were a number of different opportunities or plays that could have been made on either side of the football that would have helped secure a victory for us tonight.”
Despite giving up 23 points, the Spider defense put out a solid overall performance. LB Eric Wright led the team with career-high 12 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. LB Aaron Roane and DL Kerry Wynn followed with 11 tackles apiece, while Roane registered a sack and 2.0 tackles for a loss. DB Ayo Ogunniyi and DB Wayne Pettus picked up their first interceptions of the season.
Offensively, QB Michael Strauss played his heart out setting career highs in total yards and attempts, and tied his career high in completions. The redshirt junior went 29-for-45 for a total of 300 yards and two touchdowns. WR Stephen Barnette led the receiving corps with five receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. TE Sam Roller registered a career day, setting highs with five receptions for 54 yards and his first touchdown.
The Spider defense came out strong in the first quarter forcing a fumble on the Wolfpack’s first drive of the game. DB Wayne Pettus forced a fumble that was recovered by DB Reggie Barnette on the Richmond 24 to prevent a State score.
Six minutes to go in the first quarter, the Wolfpack was forced to call the field goal team out when LB Aaron Roane came up with a huge two-yard sack on a third-and-six situation.
After a State 46-yard field goal, the Spiders responded with the first touchdown of the day with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Strauss threw his fourth TD of the season on a three-yard pass to Roller to give the Spiders their first lead of the game heading into the second quarter.
NC State responded five minutes into the third with a 28-yard touchdown run by QB Bryant Shirreffs to go ahead 10-7.
The Spiders quickly took back lead on their next drive of the game. A drive that only took 2:51 and ended on a 14-yard Strauss pass to Stephen Barnette, his fifth and final catch of the day to score for the second-straight game.
After holding State to just eight plays for eight yards and forcing a punt, the Spiders came out strong offensively with 5:38 remaining in the first. Richmond pushed the ball up field 62 yards off seven plays as RB Jacobi Green found the end zone on a seven-yard run on its final drive of the half.
The Spider defense held on strong to end the first half and limited the Wolfpack to a 19-yard field goal to go into the break with a 21-13 lead.
In a physical first half, NC State came out leading the Spiders 263-244 total yards, but Richmond dominated in passing as Strauss went 19-26 for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Roane highlighted the Spider defense in the first as he tallied seven tackles, including five solos, a sack and two tackles for a loss.
Momentum shifted slightly in the third quarter when State forced back-to-back fumbles which allowed the Wolfpack make it a one-point ball game at the 7:09 mark in the third.
Late in the fourth, with NC State driving, Ogunniyi came up with a big interception to stem the Wolfpack momentum. On the ensuing Spider drive, however, the offense was unable to ice the game, punting the ball back to NCSU with just over two minutes left in the contest.
State took the lead with 33 seconds left on the clock in a drive that took seven plays for 48 yards that ended in a 48-yard field goal to eventually take the game.
The Spiders eagerly looked to find the last second score, but the 48-yard push up the field was not enough and the clock trickled down to zero.
“I give their team a lot of credit,” added Rocco. “They responded down the stretch and at the very end and made some plays. They found a way to come out on top.”
Richmond will return to action when it travels to Boiling Springs, N.C., on Saturday, Sept. 14 to face the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN3.