(9) Elon (9-2) at (4) Richmond (10-1)
The Sports Network
By Brett Kahn, FCS Assistant Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 28th, 1 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: UR Stadium (21,319) -- Richmond, Virginia. Surface: Natural Grass. Television: None. Home Record: Elon 4-1; Richmond 4-1. Away Record: Elon 5-1; Richmond 6-0. Series Record: Richmond (2-0). Last Meeting: August 30, 2008 (Richmond, 28-10 at Elon). Series Streak: Richmond has won both meetings. Conference: Elon - Southern; Richmond - Colonial Athletic Association. Nicknames: Elon Phoenix; Richmond Spiders. Sports Network Ranking: Elon (9); Richmond (4). Head Coaches: Elon - Pete Lembo (29-16 at Elon; 73-30 overall); Richmond - Mike London (23-4). Playoff Records: Elon (0-0); Richmond (9-6).
GAME NOTES: Elon and Richmond faced off in the season opener in 2008 and will meet again for just the third time ever in the first round of the 2009 FCS playoffs.
Richmond took the contest 28-10 last season in a game that was not as lopsided as the score indicates, the first of 13 wins that culminated with a national championship victory.
This year, Richmond comes into the playoffs as the No. 4 seed, after sharing the CAA crown with Villanova.
Last year's Elon-Richmond meeting came down to a handful of plays, with quarterback Eric Ward (2,227 yards of total offense, 18 TDs) completing 17- of-22 passes for 236 yards and two scores.
Ward hasn't been as consistent as last season for the Spiders' run-dominated offense, but the third-team All-CAA quarterback has helped his team back to the playoffs for a second consecutive year as an at large squad.
The Spiders' rushing attack ranks 41st in FCS and features standout Justin Forte (903 yards rushing, six TDs), who rushed for a career-high total this season en route to earning All-CAA honors. The senior tallied a touchdown in a regular season-finale 13-10 win over William & Mary.
Tre Gray (45 catches, 13.4 average, three TDs), Kevin Grayson (38 catches, 11.7 average, two TDs) and Donte Boston (30 catches, 16.0 average) have paced Richmond's wide receiving unit all season and combined for 16 catches and 171 yards against the Tribe.
Richmond's defense is the most experienced group on the team and paced the team to the 2008 national championship. The unit ranks third in rushing defense and eighth in scoring defense.
Standouts include Buchanan Award nominee Martin Parker (64 tackles, 15 tackles for loss) at defensive end, linebacker Collin McConaghy (83 tackles, five quarterback hurries) and All-American cornerback Justin Rogers (seven pass breakups, three interceptions).
Return specialist Derek Hatcher leads the Spiders in punt returns and ranks 18th in FCS (9.9 average, one touchdown).
Elon is making its first trip to the FCS playoffs under fourth-year coach and former Robinson Award winner Pete Lembo. Lembo's squad is in the midst of its most successful season since winning back-to-back NAIA national titles in 1980-81.
The Phoenix finished off the 2009 regular season taking care of Samford, 27-7. Elon boasts the nation's eighth-ranked total offense and seventh-ranked passing offense.
Payton Award nominee Terrell Hudgins (111 catches, 13.2 average, 15 TDs) exploded at wide receiver this season, leading the nation in both receptions and receiving yards.
The senior also broke Jerry Rice's Division I records for most games with 100- plus receiving yards (26) and the career-receiving yards mark (5,083) of Jacquay Nunnally. He also holds school records for career receptions (383) and touchdowns scored (51).
Quarterback Scott Riddle (3,036 yards passing, 25 combined TDs) has gotten the ball to Hudgins as many times as possible and kept his turnovers limited with just three interceptions. Against Samford, Riddle completed 27-of-41 passes for 278 yards and a touchdown.
Running backs Jamal Shuman (677 yards rushing, three TDs) and Brandon Newsome (435 yards rushing, seven TDs) anchor Elon's rushing attack.
Newsome has run for six scores in his last three games, with Shuman is still nursing a shoulder injury and a concussion that kept him out against Samford. His status is uncertain for this weekend.
Elon's ranks second nationally in total defense and scoring defense. The unit also boasts the fifth best pass defense and sixth-ranked pass rush.
Defensive end Andre Campbell (37 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss), cornerback Karlos Sullivan (31 tackles, four interceptions) and linebacker Joshua Jones (88 tackles, seven tackles for loss) pace an Elon defense that has held opponents to under 13 points per game this season.
Look for a potential upset in this matchup as Elon's offense and defense have outplayed both units for Richmond this season. A normally solid Spiders' secondary has had some cover issues this season and now faces one of the most dangerous wide receivers in FCS history.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Elon 31, Richmond 24.
11/27 12:58:15 ET