NCCU’s playoff debut spoiled by big Richmond second halfCourtesy NCCU Athletics / December 1, 2023
RICHMOND, Va. – North Carolina Central University built up a 13-point lead in the first half with help from great defense and explosive offensive plays, but the University of Richmond turned the tide in the second half to defeat the Eagles, 49-27, and advance to the second round of the NCAA Division I FCS Playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 25 at Robins Stadium.
Richmond (9-3) set the tone early by scoring just 70 seconds into the game on a 35-yard completion from Kyle Wickersham (Metairie, La.) to Nick DeGennaro (Old Bridge, N.J.). But, NCCU (9-3) did not let that bother them as the Eagles strung together 20 unanswered points to lead, 20-7, with seven minutes remaining in the first half in a matchup of two top-25 nationally-ranked teams.
That run included a 91-yard strike from Davius Richard (Belle Glade, Fla.) to Devin Smith (Durham, N.C.). That play now ranks as the fourth-longest passing TD in program history, and the longest of Richard’s career, besting his 86-yard mark that he set on a completion to Quentin McCall against Winston-Salem State, earlier this year.
The Spiders were able to recapture the momentum with a touchdown right before the break, after a lengthy 65-yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard pass to DeGennaro to cut the Eagle lead down to 20-14 after 30 minutes.
Richmond used that score as a catalyst to start a 28-0 run to move the hosts in front, 35-20, early into the fourth quarter. The Eagles were able to stop the streak and pull within one score with a touchdown from Richard, as he rumbled into the paint for his third rushing touchdown of the day to cap off a 6-play, 75-yard drive that included a 53-yard catch and run by Smith with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
The Spiders pushed back with a pair of late touchdowns, and closed the game with a 49-27 victory.
Richard amassed four total touchdowns, and finished the day with 313 yards of total offense to finish his career with 11,017 total yards. He threw for 262 yards with one touchdown, with 202 of those yards belonging to Smith who recorded the sixth-most receiving yards in a game at NCCU.
Defensively, Jayden Flaker (Scarborough, Maine) notched a game-high 11 tackles to lead the Eagles, and Quantez Mansfield (Greensboro, N.C.) earned 1.5 tackles for loss with 0.5 sacks, and a blocked field goal in the first half.