CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Mike London gave Richmond the perfect ending to his first season in charge at his alma mater.
Eric Ward caught a touchdown pass and threw for another score, Josh Vaughan ran for 162 yards and a touchdown and the Spiders dominated Montana 24-7 on Friday night for the school’s first Football Championship Subdivision national championship.
After starting the season 4-3, the Spiders were perhaps the only ones who thought they had a chance to win the title. The team held a players-only meeting on Oct. 12 after a loss to James Madison and pledged not to give up on making a playoff run.
Richmond (13-3) won its next eight games behind the calm coaching of London, who replaced Dave Clawson after two seasons as defensive coordinator at Virginia. The Spiders went on to upset defending national champion Appalachian State in the playoff quarterfinals and hung on to beat Northern Iowa before toppling two-time national champion Montana.
A crowd of mostly Richmond fans rushed the field in Chattanooga, surrounding the players as they accepted the championship trophy.
The Grizzlies (14-2), who lost the 2004 championship to James Madison and were making their fifth trip to the title game, found themselves in a 21-0 hole by halftime.
Ward struck first when he pitched the ball to fullback John Crone just a few minutes into the game. The quarterback took off toward the endzone and Crone hit him from 23 yards out — his first touchdown pass and Ward’s first touchdown reception.
Montana moved quickly downfield in an attempt to answer, but the drive stalled at the 11 and Brody McKnight missed a 34-year field goal attempt.
Little would go right for the Grizzlies the rest of the half.
Cole Bergquist threw a 15-yard pass to Steven Pfahler deep in Montana territory, but a penalty for an illegal block erased the play and another drive stalled.
Richmond took over at the Montana 34 and, three players later, Vaughan bounced a run outside and scored from 5 yards out to make it 14-0 with 11:29 left in the first half.
Ward’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilkins with 2:13 to go before halftime capped a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took up nearly 7 minutes.
Bergquist was sacked seven times in the game, with Lawrence Sidbury responsible for four of them. The Montana quarterback completed 19 of 36 passes for 267 yards and an interception.
Marc Mariani caught seven passes for 172 yards for the Grizzlies.
Montana didn’t reach the end zone until 11:56 left in the game, when Chase Reynolds plowed in from 4 yards out. But Eric McBride picked off Bergquist moments later, and Brian Radford’s 39-yard field goal with 6:54 left in the game dashed any hopes of a Montana comeback.
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