2024 CAA Football

North Carolina Central vs. Richmond, Lafayette vs. Delaware Predictions

North Carolina Central vs. Richmond, Lafayette vs. Delaware Predictions

Delaware faces Lafayette and Richmond hosts North Carolina Central in the first two 2023 FCS Playoffs games for the CAA.

Nov 21, 2023 by Kyle Kensing
North Carolina Central vs. Richmond, Lafayette vs. Delaware Predictions

The 1st Round of the 2023 FCS Playoffs features a pair of games involving Coastal Athletic Association teams: Delaware hosts Patriot League champion Lafayette, while Richmond welcomes North Carolina Central to Robins Stadium. 

Both the Blue Hens and Spiders are appearing in their second consecutive postseason, while Lafayette makes its first playoff appearance since 2013 and North Carolina Central is in the field for the first time in program history. 

Expect a pair of outstanding contests to set the tone for the postseason. 

Delaware vs. Lafayette

Delaware turns the page from a disappointing conclusion to the regular season. A loss to rival Villanova in the Battle of the Blue got away from the Blue Hens in the fourth quarter, and with it, Delaware slipped from a likely top-eight seed to the 1st Round. 

"We got punched a little bit in that game [vs. Villanova]. We had a day — less than a day, really — to try to figure out why that happened and how we can change it," UD coach Ryan Carty said. "We get a chance to have a second life here in a new season."

"That's the one message that sometimes gets lost there, is how good our regular season was even though it finished the way that it did," Carty continued. "Now we have to get back to who we are, and make sure that we don't change too much." 

Delaware cruised along for the first two months looking like the heads-and-shoulders class of the CAA before late losses to Elon and Villanova. The Blue Hens were hamstrung with injuries, most notably at quarterback where both Ryan O'Connor and Zach Marker were limited. 


Carty said O'Connor's return for the 1st Round "doesn't look good." 

Freshman Nick Minicucci appeared down the stretch of the regular season and showed off some dynamic ball-carrying ability, but has yet to pass for more than 79 yards in any of his four appearances. The Delaware offense was at its best when running backs Marcus Yarns and Kyron Cumby (who missed the Villanova game) work in concert with an efficient passing attack. 

To wit, when Delaware hung 51 points on Towson last month, Marker when 16-of-18 passing with two touchdowns and 307 yards while Yarns carried for a pair of scores. Minicucci also worked in as a ball-carrier with 59 yards on five carries. 


Almost as important as finding ways to score points on a tough Lafayette defense, which builds around Buck Buchanan Award finalist linebacker Billy Shaeffer, is Delaware's offense sustaining drives even when it doesn't produce points. 

In losses to Elon and Villanova, the Blue Hens gave up points in bunches over brief stretches. The decisive stretch came midway through the Elon game, during a spell that began in the second quarter and lasted into the early fourth during which Delaware had possessions of 1:21, 0:51, 1:56, 0:26, 1:02, 1:01 and 0:24 that all resulted in punts. 

 In the Battle of the Blue, it what was a second half in which drives of 1:13 and 1:30 ended in punts, and drives of 1:28 and 1:47 ended in turnovers. 

Containing Shaeffer is job No. 1 for the Delaware offense. Shaeffer has been a terror this season, recording 20.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, seven quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. 

As for the Blue Hens defense, Jamar Curtis rushed for 1,333 yards in the regular season. It's no coincidence the Leopards' lone Patriot League loss against Colgate was the game Curtis missed. 

Quarterback Dean DeNobile hasn't put up eye-popping numbers, but has been efficient. The Blue Hens need to make Lafayette's offense predicated on DeNobile's ability to take over. Heavy pressure, starting with standout pass-rusher Chase McGowan, figures to be a pivotal point on Saturday. 

PREDICTION: Delaware 30, Lafayette 17

Richmond vs. North Carolina Central

North Carolina Central may be in its first FCS Playoffs, but it's  no stranger to postseason football. The Eagles qualified for the Celebration Bowl, pitting champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference head-to-head, in 2016 and 2022. 

Last year's 41-34 Celebration Bowl victory over Jackson State earned North Carolina Central its first Black National Championship at the Div. I level. 

Though Howard won the right to represent the MEAC in this year's Celebration Bowl, NCCU can stake to another Black National Championship if it becomes the first MEAC program to win a playoff game since 1999. 

North Carolina A&T — which just completed its first season as a CAA member — stunned No. 1 overall seed Tennessee State in '99 for the last MEAC playoff win.

The Eagles have the firepower to score a landmark win for the program, and the conference's first playoff victory this millennium. Quarterback Davius Richard is a Walter Payton Award contender and perhaps the best dual-threat playmaker in the subdivision. 

Richmond coach Russ Huesman compared Richard's passing skill set to that of Rhode Island's Kasim Hill, with both possessing big, strong arms and uncanny abilities to unleash the deep ball. 

Richard also spread the ball effectively among a variety of pass-catchers. Five Eagles have caught from 208 to 505 yards on the season, and six have multiple touchdown receptions. Tops among the group are Devin Smith, a 5-foot-10 speedster and Joaquin Davis, a rangy 6-foot-4 target. 

The duo pose different challenges for the Spiders defense. Coupled with the mobility of Richard — he's rushed for 579 yards and 15 touchdowns this season — Richmond tackling machine Tristan Wheeler will have a busy day between spying the quarterback and helping on pass coverage. 

Solving the Eagles' prolific and multi-faceted offensive attack is key to doing what no CAA team has been able in recent meetings with coach Trei Oliver's bunch. 

North Carolina Central carries a four-game winning streak against CAA opponents, which dates back to the Eagles' win at New Hampshire last season. This campaign, NCCU went 3-0 against the Coastal with wins over North Carolina A&T, Elon and Campbell. 


Richmond swept the same trio of CAA teams en route to winning its share of the conference championship. Overall, the Spiders shared five common regular-season opponents with the Eagles, going 4-1 against the quintet that also included MEAC squads Morgan State and Delaware State. 

A 17-10 loss to Morgan State was the lone blemish. 

NCCU went 5-0 against the same schedule, with its win over Morgan State an almost exact mirror opposite of Richmond's Week 1 result. The Eagles beat the Bears on Oct. 19, 16-10. 

"It is important that you see them against people we have played, and how they match up against people that we have played. The Morgan State game, that was a great game...They kind of handled Elon pretty good," Huesman said. "So to get the idea, here's the type of players and here's the type of playmakers that they have, because we see it against a good Elon team, a good Morgan State team."

"It helps to watch those, and a lot of times those films will go into our breakdowns," he added. "We can't put 11 games into a breakdown, into cut-ups. We watch them all, obviously, but ultimately you've got to make a decision: Here's the four games that we're going to put into cut-ups, and this is how we're to game-plan. And probably, Morgan State, Elon, A&T are in that breakdown." 

North Carolina Central's matchup with Elon may be especially instructive — on both sides. 

The 34 points NCCU scored were the second-most a good Elon defense allowed against FCS competition this season. The most were the 38 points Richmond scored in a 38-24 defeat of the Phoenix on Nov. 11. 


That game, perhaps more than any other, demonstrates the considerable strides the Richmond offense made over the latter-half of the regular season. 

The Spiders averaged 34.7 points per game during their six-game winning streak, twice exceeding 40 points and touching up Elon for the aforementioned 38. In that game, quarterback Kyle Wickersham was outstanding: 20-of-27 passing with two touchdowns, 130 yards rushing for another score, and running back Savon Smith adding two touchdowns. 

Richmond's defense is adept at generating turnovers, including Marlem Louis' five forced fumbles this season and Jabril Hayes' three leading four Spiders with multiple interceptions. What's more, Richmond has excelled in converting those takeaways into points with four pick-sixes. 

Certainly converting defense into immediate offense would be huge for Richmond, but the Spiders offense's ability to consistently push North Carolina Central may be more reliable. The Eagles committed no turnovers in their 50-20 loss to Howard; they simply struggled to stop the Bison, with HU peppering NCCU for 6.8 yards per carry and 12 yards per completion. 

Howard's defense more effectively limited the Eagles offense than any other FCS opponent, and Richmond will certainly need to do the same. But the turnaround of the Spiders offense on the back-half of this season could be what determines Richmond's readiness to move and set up a 2nd Round matchup with CAA counterpart UAlbany. 

PREDICTION: Richmond 38, North Carolina Central 35