When No. 12 Richmond and No. 17 Delaware engage in another edition of the colloquially-termed Danny Rocco Bowl, each top-20 team formerly coached by Rocco will face a “win-and-in” situation in regards to the 2022 FCS playoffs. The Spiders and Blue Hens are each one win away from arriving at the eight Division I wins that would assure either squad an at-large selection out of CAA Football.
The teams’ scenarios mirror each other, as following their game Saturday, Richmond and Delaware meet traditional rivals for Week 12 (CAA leader William & Mary and not-mathematically-eliminated Villanova, respectively). UR and UD would prefer to settle their playoff futures before getting in the mud with the Tribe and Wildcats in matchups that so often skew to be tight.
Richmond QB Reece Udinski is the CAA’s passing leader whose 76.2 completion percentage ranks second nationally, trailing Samford’s Michael Hiers by just 0.2 percentage points. Udinski enters the Spiders’ bout with Delaware with a lower-body injury that head coach Russ Huesman told HERO Sports Monday would require UR to see what Udinski can do over the course of the week. Udinski appears on the starters’ line in Richmond’s two-deep released Tuesday.
Under the presumption that Udinski will, true to form in a game with such heavy playoff implications, give it a go, Delaware’s conference-leading pass defense (116.9 YPG) will meet its most difficult opponent of the regular season. The Hens dodged Monmouth’s Tony Muskett their last time out as Muskett remained out at QB for the Hawks when they fell at Delaware Stadium.
Among the top five signal-callers in the CAA statistically when removing its own Nolan Henderson, UD is 1-1 against such QBs with a win at Rhode Island/Kasim Hill, a loss at Elon/Matthew McKay, and no dates with Muskett or UAlbany’s Jerry Rice Award Watch List member Reese Poffenbarger.
Sure to be an area of focus is the manner in which Delaware’s deep secondary, loaded with the experience of Kedrick Whitehead and Noah Plack, matches up with not only Udinski, but with his primary outside targets in Jakob Herres, Leroy Henley, and Jasiah Williams. This Spider trio includes three of the CAA’s top 11 pass-catchers in receiving YPG and each is averaging over 55 yards in the category.
When the Blue Hens have the ball, head coach and play-caller Ryan Carty will look to establish, even in an obvious pass-first offense, a respectable run game against the league’s top rushing defense. Richmond is allowing just 101.7 YPG on the ground, though 253 rushing attempts against UR on the season is last in the CAA. Teams are not running the football as frequently against the Spiders, which is a testament to their ability to get out to a lead and maintain it, determining game flow for the opposition.
UD hopes its home-field status on Saturday’s Senior Day game will have an effect on the game script, as the Hens are unbeaten at Tubby Raymond Field. Richmond, HERO Sports’ preseason No. 2 team in the CAA, will be the best outfit to come to Newark this regular season. Delaware’s existing home strength of schedule is abysmal, as the combined record of foes defeated at Delaware Stadium this fall is 20-26.
Huesman spoke about playing at Delaware on Monday.
“It’s a great place to play,” he started. “Their fans are excellent; they show up. I remember we played them our first year [as HC at Richmond, in 2017] there and it was loud…Actually, we had a bad snap on a punt, it was so loud that our guy couldn’t hear…It’s a great atmosphere, tremendous facility there, and I know they play really well at home.”
Also striving to play well at home this week is 6-3 New Hampshire, which hosts 6-3 counterpart Rhode Island in what could amount to a playoff-contention elimination game. The loser will be unable to hit eight DI wins, but could use Week 12 to reach a 7-4 mark that places teams on the bubble.
Although there is precedent for a 7-4 UNH to make the field partly with its name recognition and postseason pedigree, this year’s Wildcats have a blemish on the resume in the form of a home loss to North Carolina Central. At the same time, New Hampshire’s 5-1 conference record to date includes a quality win over ranked Elon and a competitive, one-score loss at ranked Richmond.
On the opposite sideline, Rhode Island is fighting for a breakthrough FCS playoff qualification under head coach Jim Fleming, who has built URI into contenders from humble beginnings. Rhody matches UNH with a win of its own over Elon and possesses a “quality loss” at William & Mary in a 31-30 final. However, on a crowded bubble, the postseason candidates from across the country may be too jammed to warrant a possible 7-4 Rhode Island’s bracket entry on the back of (to an extent) a hotly contested loss.
For these reasons, New England rivals UNH and URI could have a de facto playoff play-in on their hands in Week 11 while Richmond travels to Delaware to determine one of the CAA’s projected postseason slots.