Runnin' Bulldogs upend No. 11 Richmond
It was a night when Jordan Day had it and Brandon Jordi came up short.
Day — a converted soccer player — drilled four field goals including a 30-yard attempt with 29 seconds left to lift Gardner-Webb to a 12-10 win over No. 11 Richmond Saturday night at Spangler Stadium.
Jordi had an opportunity to give the Spiders (1-2) a win but his 44-yard effort with 2 seconds remaining fell short.
It was the highest-ranked opponent the Runnin' Bulldogs (2-1) have defeated since joining Division I sports.
"We really had them broken down and had some good tendencies," said GWU head coach Carroll McCray. "Our kids came tuned in sharp because of their film study."
It was the second-consecutive week the Spiders (1-2) fell on the last-second field goal after dropping a 23-21 decision to N.C. State last week.
"Two games in a row to go down to the last seconds of the game and both teams wet able to make a field goal," said Richmond head coach Danny Rocco. "In both games, we had a chance to go out there on offense and tonight we were able to get Brandon (Jordi) out there at the edge of his range. That's a makable kick right there and, if nothing else, that's a 50/50 ball."
It was the Gardner-Webb defense that was able to bend, not break, against a bigger Spider offense. The defense held Richmond to just one yard on the ground in the first half and 10 for the game.
The night, however, belonged to Day who connected on his first collegiate field goal in the second quarter that tied the game 3-3.
"It was nice to get the first one under my belt," Day said. "I just had to put it through the uprights."
It was the last one, however, that proved to be the most important, coming after Richmond took its first lead of the game since the first quarter.
The Spiders picked up that lead after quarterback Michael Strauss found tight end Sam Roller on a 9-yard touchdown pass. Roller appeared to have injured his knee on the play, forcing a lengthy injury delay.
On the drive, Richmond had seven straight passes from Strauss — to six different receivers. The score marked the first time the Spiders held a lead since the open of the second quarter.
But, return specialist JJ Hubbard gave the Runnin' Bulldogs good field position with a 51-yard kickoff return to the Richmond 47. After a 6-yard loss on a sack, GWU quarterback Lucas Beatty found Demarcus White for a 24-yard pickup to the 22. Wide receiver Richard Jules came down with a 9-yard catch to the 13 with 29 seconds left.
That was enough for Day.
"We knew our average," McCray said. "We got the ball on the 47 and I thought we needed about two first downs."
Following the field goal, the defense which had been stout for most of the game, was forced to hold with a small lead and little time on the clock.
Strauss found Stephen Barnette on three straight passes down to the Gardner-Webb 25, setting up Jordi's 43-yard attempt that fell short and to the left.
Strauss was effective most of the night, going 28-for-43 for 305 yards and a touchdown.
"If you gave their quarterback any time he hit his mark," said GWU defensive end Shaquille Riddick.
Riddick ended the game with five tackles, including two for loss. Overall, the Runnin' Bulldogs had seven tackles for losses of 29 yards. Additionally, the defense got into passing lanes for four pass break-ups, including one late by Tiko Thompson that stalled a drive on fourth down midway through the fourth quarter.
The touchdown late in the fourth quarter might have taken some wind out of the sails of the defense that had contained the Spiders for most of the night.
"We had that feeling," Riddick said. "But, we still had to go 100 percent because it wasn't over."
The Gardner-Webb offense started sluggish getting eight yards on their first eight plays of the game. They started to roll on their third possession after Beatty hit tight end Seth Cranfill for a 13-yard pickup but a personal foul penalty put the ball right back into GWU territory.
Beatty helped make up the ground with a 24-yard pass to Richard Jules on the next play. The offense continued to click as Beatty found two different receivers down to the Richmond 22 before Day connected on his first collegiate field goal from 39 yards out to tie the game 3-3 to open the second quarter.
The Runnin' Bulldogs ended the game with 297 yards of total offense to Richmond's 338. Linebacker Tanner Burch lead all with 13 tackles for Gardner-Webb.
GWU hits the road next Saturday with a 7 p.m. match-up against No. 10 Wofford in Spartanburg.