London leads alma mater to first FCS title
The Richmond Spiders are glad that Mike London decided to come home.
London, who graduated from the institution in 1983, took the head coaching job in January and 11 months later the Spiders have a nice, shiny championship trophy to display.
The Spiders, 13-3, completed an impressive late-season run by defeating Montana, 24-7, in the title game of the Division I Football Championship in front of 17,823 fans in Chattanooga, Tennessee, December 19.
Richmond used the tried-and-true formula of a bruising running game and outstanding defense to down the 14-2 Grizzlies.
“Words can’t describe how I feel about this victory,” said London, only the second African-American coach to win an FCS title, joining Florida A&M’s Rudy Hubbard (1978). “These guys truly performed like warriors.”
Richmond set the tone for the game on its first drive by giving the ball to tailback Josh Vaughan, who finished with 162 yards on 23 carries. Montana had trouble stopping the run, which left the Grizzlies vulnerable for a trick play and the game’s first score.
Spiders quarterback Eric Ward pitched the ball to running back John Crone, who ran right, stopped and threw a 23-yard touchdown to his wide-open quarterback on the backside of the play.
“I began giggling when it was called, because I never thought we would run it,” Crone said. “It happened in slow motion, and when I saw (Ward) open, I knew I had to hit him or I would never hear the end of it.”
Vaughan gave the Spiders a 14-0 lead with a five-yard scoring run, and Ward made it 21-0 before halftime by throwing a 13-yard touchdown to Garrett Wilkins.
Richmond’s defense made the lead seem even bigger. The Spiders recorded seven sacks, including four by senior defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.
Most impressively, Richmond was able to disrupt Montana’s offense without blitzing.
“We didn’t do anything special,” Sidbury said. "We just did what we are coached to do. We were able to get pressure on them.”
Montana finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, courtesy of a four-yard touchdown by Chase Reynolds with 11:56 remaining in the game. But Richmond answered with Brian Radford’s 39-yard field goal five minutes later to help the Spiders stay in control.
Richmond finished the game with 208 yards rushing while limiting the Grizzlies to 39 yards on the ground.
Montana quarterback Cole Bergquist tried to make up for the lack of a running game by completing 19 of 36 passes for 267 yards, but he was under constant pressure.
For Richmond, the game culminated a season that began on a rocky note. The team held a player-only meeting after losing in mid-October to top-ranked James Madison, dropping to 4-3.
The Spiders never lost again, and their playoff run included a 33-13 road win over three-time FCS champion Appalachian State in the quarterfinals and a 21-20 semifinal victory where they scored with 14 seconds left at Northern Iowa.
“Richmond did a really nice job, and did to us what we’ve been doing to people we’ve played lately,” said Montana coach Bobby Hauck. “They gave a great effort. They got out to a good start and held on. They played great defense and didn’t let us back in the game.”
Richmond 24, Montana 7
1 2 3 4 -- T
Montana 0 0 0 7 -- 7
Richmond 7 14 0 3 -- 24
R: Eric Ward 23 pass from John Crone (Andrew Howard kick), 9:02.
R: Josh Vaughn 5 run (Howard kick), 11:29.
R: Garrett Wilkins 13 pass from Ward (Howard kick), 2:13.
M: Chase Reynolds 4 run (Brody McKnight kick), 11:56.
R: Brian Radford 39 field goal, 6:54.
First downs 15 16
Rushes-yards 25-39 39-208
Passing 267 119
Comp.-Att.-Int. 19-38-1 13-19-0
Return yards 90 76
Punts-Avg. 5-35.0 5-38.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-57 3-40
Time of Possession 28:59 31:01
Rushing: M – Chase Reynolds 12-47, Cole Bergquist 13-minus 8; R – Josh Vaughan 23-162, Eric Ward 12-46, John Crone 2-4.
Passing: M – Bergquist 19-36-0-267, Andrew Selle 0-2-0-0; R – Ward 12-19-1-96, Crone 1-1-1-23.
Receiving: M – Marc Mariani 7-172, Chase Reynolds 4-22, Steve Pfahler 2-26, Tyler Palmer 2-19, Rob Schulte 2-14, Dan Beaudin 1-12, Mike Ferriter 1-2; R – Tre Gray 6-44, Kevin Grayson 2-25, Ward 1-23, Wilkins 1-13, Crone 1-7, Vaughan 1-4, Jordan Mitchell 1-3.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association