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Richmond Rebels (10-5) at Providence Steam Roller (11-4) — November 27, 2005


Regular Season: August 27 (Week 3) @Providence, 23-17   Box   Drive Chart
Point Spread: Providence –1½, Over/Under 42


These players are injured and will miss the championship game:

Championship Game Result

November 27, 2005   Box   Drive Chart

Richmond Rallies Past Providence, 27-24, to Claim Title

Muhsin Muhammed caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb with 0:45 left to give Richmond (11‑5) the 2005 EFL title over Providence (11‑5). The win capped a nine-game run by the Rebels in which, after a 2‑5 start, they won the last seven regular season games and the two post-season games.

A game-tying 47‑yard field goal by the Steam Roller’s Doug Brien was negated by an illegal formation penalty and Brien was short from 52 on the retry.

Providence had retaken the lead, 24‑20, with 4:25 left, when Marc Bulger hit Terrell Owens with a beautiful 49‑yard bomb on 3rd and 7 from the Rebels 49.

Penalties — untimely, costly, and abundant — were Providence’s downfall.

Besides the penalty that negated the tying field goal, there were these:

  • On the first Richmond possession, Ryan Clark intercepted a McNabb pass in the end zone. The turnover was negated, however, because the Steam Roller was offsides. Two plays later Verron Haynes scored to give the Rebels a 7‑0 lead.
  • When Richmond drove 88 yards early in the fourth quarter to temporarily retake the lead, 20‑17, Providence was flagged for pass interference and — four plays later — for a personal foul.
  • Providence was called for roughing McNabb on the game-winning drive, moving the ball from the Richmond 44 to the Steam Roller 41.

All told Providence was whistled 11 times for 114 yards.

Putting all those infractions aside, the winning margin can be traced to a missed 37‑yard field goal attempt by Brien with 6:20 left in the third quarter. Before that miss, Brien had missed only one field goal the entire season, and that miss came in the regular season finale against Atlantic City with Providence resting Bulger and many other regular starters.

After the early score by Haynes, the Steam Roller had much the better of the going for the remainder of the first half. They tied the score at 7 on a 2‑yard pass from Bulger to Terry Jones with 4:56 left in the first quarter. After the teams exchanged field goals, Providence punter Jeff Feagles pinned the Rebels inside their own 5-yard line. McNabb fought off pressure and hit Nick Luchey for a first down.

But then on 3rd and 10, Aaron Schobel sacked McNabb, and forced Bryan Barker to punt from the back of the end zone. Jamall Broussard made a fair catch putting the Steam Roller in great field position at the Richmond 39. On 3rd and 10 Bulger hooked up with Josh Reed for a 25‑yard gain. Larry Johnson ran in from the 4 three plays later to give Providence a 17‑10 halftime lead.

Richmond’s 9-game run to the championship

  1. Oct. 1, Atlantic City, 37-10
  2. Oct. 8, @Pittsburgh, 26-20
  3. Oct. 16, @Delaware, 37-20
  4. Oct. 22, @New York, 41-21
  5. Oct. 29, Washington, 23-20 (OT)
  6. Nov. 5, @Baltimore, 38-17
  7. Nov. 12, Philadelphia, 23-20
  8. Nov. 19, Philadelphia, 20-16 (playoffs)
  9. Nov. 27, @Providence, 27-24 (championship)

The Rebels offense gradually picked up steam in the second half. After Brien missed the mid-range field goal that would have increased the Steam Roller lead to 10, Richmond moved 42 yards to the Providence 31 with McNabb hooking up twice with Muhammed. On 3rd and 1 the Rebels gambled, sending Muhammed to the end zone, but McNabb overthrew him and Richmond settled for a 48‑yard field goal by Matt Stover, which cut their deficit to 17‑13.


The ensuing Steam Roller drive fizzled after getting only one first down, and the Rebels took over on their own 12 with 14:24 remaining. McNabb moved them all the way to the Providence 2. Haynes then ran it in for what would have been his second touchdown had it not been nullified by a holding penalty.

Richmond was not deterred.

On 3rd and goal from the 9, McNabb hit tight end Todd Heap on a slant at the 2 and the big tight end shook off Clark and dove into the end zone. Stover’s point after made it 20‑17 Richmond with 8:16 left.

Providence responded with an 8‑play, 80‑yard drive, ending with the bomb to Owens, to retake the lead. The partisan crowd started celebrating, but McNabb and the resilient Rebels had other ideas.

Richmond coach John Dillard credited the focus of his team during the second half of the regular season and the playoffs. “After we let Albany come back and beat us [September 25] at our place on a Sunday morning on [national cable] TV, we had a team meeting. I told them they had all the tools to make a run, that they just had to believe in themselves and make sure to they would always be the aggressors.”

The Rebels would not lose the rest of the way.

Dillard credited the Steam Roller for their physical play. “They knocked a bunch of our guys out today.” Indeed, wide receiver Amani Toomer did not play after the first two minutes, cornerback Will Allen went down before the first quarter was half over, and third wide receiver Keenan McCardell left in the third quarter, as did linebacker Will Witherspoon.

“But we were able to shake it off,” Dillard continued, “and [James] Thrash, Pisa [Tinoisamoa], and [Brian] Williams really manned up off the bench. It was a total team effort. I don’t know how anyone could say they didn’t deserve it.”

Well, one guy who didn’t say that — but sort of implied it was Providence coach Ri Divine.

“Look, I give Richmond a lot of credit. They’re the champions. We’re not. It’s just a shame the zebras had to have so much say at the end. The last two calls that went against us were … I’ll just say they were inconclusive.”

Divine probably managed to temper his words just enough to avoid a fine from the league office.

Pressed for specifics, he said, “McNabb’s momentum was taking him in the direction he fell on the one they called roughing the passer. On Brien's kick [the referee] said the blocker on the right wing was on the line of scrimmage, but [my assistants in the press box] told me his left foot was parallel to the line but still behind it. Too bad too cause Doug really kicked the hell out of that one. It would have been good from 57. On the next one he got under it a bit.” Divine sighed.

The Steam Roller was hurt by the loss of running back Priest Holmes to injury early in the second half. Holmes, who led Providence in rushing during the regular season with 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns, ran effectively, especially in the second quarter when Providence held the ball for 11 minutes. When he left the game, he had 47 yards on 10 carries — 44 in the first half — and had one catch for 14 yards.

One thing in particular Providence did do well was keeping the Rebels’ league-leading kickoff and punt returners in check.

  • Willie Ponder, who returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in the regular season, was held by the Steam Roller to just 112 yards on five returns.
  • Punt returner Jonathan Smith, who took two punts the distance in the regular season, never even touched the ball.