Saturday, December 20, 2008


Not to be confused with the D3 game with a similar name…

RICHMOND (Spiders, 4,325 students, Richmond, VA) 24, MONTANA (Grizzlies, 13,858 students, Missoula, MT) 7.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and the jolly round man from the North Pole has delivered the Commonwealth's second national championship in the game of football just in time for Christmas. Sweet.

Last night the Richmond Spiders joined their Colonial Athletic Conference rival, the James Madison University Dukes, as the only Virginia schools to win an NCAA championship in football. Sorry, Bridgewater, you were close (losing to D3 superpower Mount Union 30-27 in 2001 Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl).

So Spiders, breathe in the rarefied championship air and don't hesitate to remind your Hokie and Wahoo friends of your Spiders' accomplishment. They will huff and puff, but they simply can't blow your itsy bitsy Football Championship Subdivision house down. History is what it is. Revel in your FCS glory.

Rookie head coach Mike London may have set the bar of expectations impossibly high by winning it all in his first season in charge at his alma mater.

Under his guidance, the Spider's Eric Ward caught a touchdown pass and threw for another one, while Josh Vaughan ran for 162 yards and a touchdown. The Grizzlies were never really in the game after Richmond scored a touchdown on the opening possession.

Richmond started the season 4-3 with one particularly galling loss to the Wahoos. They held a players-only meeting after losing to the 2004 NCAA D1AA Football National Champions, the JMU Dukes on a late punt return. We don't know what was said, but it worked.

The Spiders who finished the season at 13-3 promptly won their next eight games, guided by the steady hand of their rookie coach London, who replaced Dave Clawson after two seasons as defensive coordinator at Virginia. Richmond upset defending national champion Appalachian State in the playoff quarterfinals and hung on to beat Northern Iowa before knocking off two-time national champion Griz.

The Grizzlies (14-2), who lost the 2004 NCAA D1AA Football National Championship to James Madison University (did we mention that, you know the part where JMU and now Richmond are the only two schools from Virginia to win an NCAA football championship?), were making their fifth trip to the title game.

(Richmond's Will Healy celebrates, Mike London coaches ‘em up and linebacker Eric McBride plays with dolls. AP Photos/Mark Humphrey)

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