As the Richmond Spiders advanced deeper and deeper in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, a lot of familiar names started showing up in defensive coordinator Russ Huesman’s e-mail inbox.
A four-year starter at defensive back for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga — he graduated in 1982 — Huesman said he’s interacted with more former teammates than he has in years.
“It’s been pretty neat to hear from all these guys, to have a lot of ex-teammates contact me and congratulate me,” Huesman said. “I hope a lot of them will come out to the game Friday and pull for Richmond.”
The game is the biggest of his career. When the Spiders (12-3) face No. 4 seed Montana (14-1) in the national championship game at Finley Stadium, Huesman’s defense will face a potent and balanced Grizzlies offense that averages 33.5 points per game and generates 399.1 yards a game.
“They know what they want to do offensively. They’re going to run, run and then work their play-action passing game, and this will be a tough test for us,” Huesman said.
Montana averages 184.2 rushing yards per game, led by one of the biggest offensive lines the Spiders have seen all season. The Grizzlies’ starters all are at least 6-foot-4 and weigh at least 295 pounds.
But it’s not the size of the line that most impresses Huesman.
“They’re big, but for being as big as they are they’re very athletic,” he said. “They’re big and they can run.”
One of the things Richmond’s defense prides itself on is forcing turnovers. The Spiders, sixth in the nation in scoring defense and 10th in total defense, have 41 take-aways this season, including 28 interceptions, the most in the FCS.
“I think Coach Huesman and his defensive staff have done a great job of preparing the players,” said Richmond head coach Mike London, who was the defensive coordinator at Virginia for two seasons before taking over at his alma mater. “They play with energy, they play with enthusiasm, they run around and obviously we’re pretty good at creating turnovers.”
Because of all the work that’s going into preparing for Friday’s game, Huesman said he probably won’t have time this week — both teams were scheduled to arrive Tuesday night — to visit with his old friends and teammates. In fact, he said, even though his parents are flying in for the game, “I probably won’t see them until after the game.”
Huesman said Monday that he hadn’t slept much since Richmond rallied from 13 points down in the fourth quarter last Saturday night to beat Northern Iowa 21-20 — his defense shut out the Panthers in the fourth quarter — and he didn’t expect to get much rest until Saturday.
“I can go nuts for one more week,” he said. “Then maybe I can sleep in on Saturday morning.”
Or maybe not. Huesman is expected to interview for the Mocs’ coaching job once the Spiders’ season is complete.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...