When the Cavaliers pass
Dan Ellis completed 13 of his 23 passes for 217 yards last week, numbers that should only go up against a tiny Spider secondary. The Hill brothers, Jason (5-foot-8) and Harold (5-7), are small cornerbacks, and strong safety David Giles (5-8) somehow managed to lead the team with 110 tackles. Do not confuse free safety Chad Blackstock with the guy who sang the national anthem last week.
The Richmond mighty mites will attempt to contain Virginia's 6-4 starting wideouts, Billy McMullen and Kevin Coffey, as well as 6-0 backup Demetrius Dotson, who broke through with the best game of his career against BYU.
Dotson's 99-yard performance overshadowed the disappearance of McMullen, the talented sophomore who caught his only pass of the game on the third play from scrimmage. Likewise, Ellis did not have an eye-popping day - and his overtime interception represented perhaps the worst possible time to make his only egregious mistake - but he seems to have settled into the leadership role expected of a senior quarterback.
When the Cavaliers run
Virginia fans are clamoring for Antwoine Womack to start at tailback, but Cav coach George Welsh plans to stick with sophomore Arlen Harris as the starter, even after Womack piled up twice as many rushing yards against the Cougars. Harris is expected to play despite slightly spraining his ankle in the second quarter last week, but Welsh said he does plan to increase Womack's carries this week.
Richmond senior captain Mac Janney made 101 tackles last season from his spot at middle linebacker, and Marcus Neal provides support on the outside. They have their work cut out for them trying to stop a Cavalier rushing attack that churned for 270 yards last week, especially since the Virginia offensive line should control the trenches against the Spider linemen.
When the Spiders pass
Maybe that should be a question: When the Spiders pass? They don't do it often. Junior quarterback Sean Gustus is cut from the Tommie Frazier mold, a slippery runner who threw only 11 passes last week. He completed only four of those attempts for 28 yards in what was his first career start.
Losing last year's starting wide receivers to the NFL further hampered Richmond's passing game. Nowadays, starters Ryan Tolhurst and Dan McNair are used more often for their downfield blocking than their pass-catching skills.
This easily could add up to a slow day for the Virginia secondary, but the young defensive backs must make sure they don't concentrate too much on run support and get sucked in by the play-action fake, as strong safety Shernard Newby did on one memorable occasion last week.
When the Spiders run
Richmond's bread and butter is its option running game. Gustus found playing time last year as the starting punt returner, but this season he returns to his usual spot under center. He has a solid tailback behind him in senior waterbug TyRonne Turner (5-8, 185), though Gustus himself led the Spiders with 88 yards rushing against Bucknell, when Richmond rushed 60 times.
The Cavaliers will get good practice defending the option against solid but unspectacular competition. Upcoming opponents like Clemson, North Carolina, Maryland and Wake Forest will provide far stiffer tests.
The Cavs have the talent at linebacker - watch speed demon sophomore Angelo Crowell especially - to corral Gustus and Turner but need to stay with their assignments, a task which gave them problems at times in the season opener.
Richmond's best chance to hang around may be making big plays on special teams, and Spider wide receiver Cordell Roane is a prime candidate for the job. The 5-9 burner led the nation with an average kick return of 36.2 yards last season.
Cavalier placekicker David Greene missed his potential game-winning 48-yard field goal against Brigham Young, but that was a lot to ask of a junior on his first career attempt.