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Richmond Spiders bring different defense style to FCS semifinals against North Dakota State

FARGO -- Marshaun Coprich, the Illinois State running back who had days where he ran for 100 yards in his sleep, had 30 yards on 14 carries. Tre Roberson, his teammate and quarterback who shredded Missouri Valley Football Conference defenses for ...

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University of Richmond head football coach Danny Rocco walks the sidelines in his team’s game against William and Mary at Robins Stadium in Richmond, Va., on Dec. 5, 2015. (Photo by Dean Hoffmeyer / Special to FNS)

FARGO - Marshaun Coprich, the Illinois State running back who had days where he ran for 100 yards in his sleep, had 30 yards on 14 carries. Tre Roberson, his teammate and quarterback who shredded Missouri Valley Football Conference defenses for two years, had 36 yards.
If those stats don’t get the attention of the North Dakota State defense, nothing will.
Those are the figures that the University of Richmond stonewalled the Redbirds with last week in a FCS quarterfinal victory, a performance that the Spiders will bring to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome on Friday night. It was an impressive run defense on two accounts: it came against a veteran team that was the FCS runner-up last year and it came on the road in Normal, Ill.
“I thought we were prepared going in and I was very confident we would play well,” said Richmond head coach Danny Rocco. “I thought we would be a tough team for them to prepare for in a short week because we have some versatility on offense and our style of defense is a little unique.”
What makes it unique?
The goal at the snap of the ball for the Spiders is not so much for the defensive linemen to penetrate into the backfield, but more in what Rocco calls building “a flat wall.”
“It’s something most teams don’t go against very often over the course of the year,” Rocco said. “We really ‘major’ in that. We’re not really a team getting a lot of tackles in the backfield and not as disruptive as some teams are.”
The statistics back up Rocco’s reasoning. The Spiders have 16 quarterback sacks and 36 tackles for lost yardage in 13 games. In contrast, the Bison have 28 quarterback sacks and 65 tackles for lost yardage in the same number of games.
Within the defensive wall concept, NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said the Spiders use multiple fronts and play different pass coverages - something that was effective in the Illinois State game.
“It’s unique, but not something we’ve never seen,” Klieman said. “They’re really successful at what they do. Plus, they take the ball away. Period.”

Richmond is tied with Dayton for the FCS lead in the number of interceptions with 21. Three of those went the other way for touchdowns.
“They’re very aggressive,” Klieman said.
Asked how Richmond shut down Illinois State and Klieman pointed to a sound game plan, disciplined players being in the right gaps and it helped that the Spiders took a big lead and forced ISU out of its running game.
“And we know how good Illinois State is,” Klieman said. “I have a lot of respect for the guys I talked to Illinois State, and they said they just got beat up front. They have good players and they got off blocks. You watch the film and they were pushing the line of scrimmage. It’s a physical outfit we’re going to face.”

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