|RMU Comeback Comes Up Short at Dayton|
Dayton, Ohio - For the sixth time in the past nine meetings, the Robert Morris University football team had more total yards of offense than Dayton, but the Flyers used a trio of short scoring drives to come away with a 20-14 non-conference victory Saturday afternoon at a warm and sunny Welcome Stadium.
The Flyers scored touchdowns on drives of 30, 42 and 53 yards after having good field position often during the game. As a result, Dayton was able to win even though the Colonials had statistical advantages in categories such as first downs, passing yards, time of possession and third down conversion percentage.
After each team punted on its opening drive, Dayton drove the ball into RMU territory, but the Colonials soon forced a turnover when defensive lineman R.J. Cook (Beaver, Pa. / Beaver) pounced on a loose ball for his first-career fumble recovery. Robert Morris was unable to take advantage, though, and the contest remained scoreless through the end of the first quarter.
After a series of punts, Dayton was looking to drive as it edged into RMU territory and Flyer quarterback Will Bardo launched a deep pass. However, Colonial cornerback Antwan Eddie (Homestead, Fla. / South Dade) had other ideas as he leaped up into the air and snared his first-ever interception at the RMU 5-yard line.
RMU was unable to move the ball much on its ensuing offensive possession, and Dayton received good field position after a Colonial punt.
The Flyers mixed up the run and the pass and also used a Colonial penalty to draw near to the goal line before Taylor Harris punched it in with a two-yard rush.
After another RMU 3-and-out, the Flyers once again used good field position to launch an abbreviated scoring drive as Bardo scored on a quarterback sneak with just 31 seconds remaining in the half.
RMU received the opening kickoff of the second half and marched the ball down the field into the red zone on seven plays, including a 15-yard rush by junior Evan Taylor (Redding, Calif. / Shasta). Facing a third down and 15, senior quarterback Jeff Sinclair (Natrona Heights, Pa. / Highlands) found redshirt senior Paul Evans (Elma, N.Y. / Iroquois Central) in the back of the end zone, and the tight end held on to the ball while being taken to the turf for his first TD reception of the season and the fourth of his career.
After each team punted once, Dayton used a six-play, 42-yard drive to extend its lead as Harris rolled in from 13 yards out, making it 20-7 as the point after attempt failed.
Each team punted on each of its next two possessions, and Robert Morris took over on its own 7-yard line with just over five minutes remaining. Sophomore fullback Ryan Thermil (Fort Washington, Md. / St. Joseph's & St. Agnes) rumbled 16 yards on the first play of the drive to give RMU some breathing room. The Colonials took full advantage on the next play as Sinclair went deep down the field and found junior wide receiver Donte Jeter (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Oliver), who made a leaping grab and then sprinted away from the defense for a 77-yard touchdown, cutting the RMU deficit to just 20-14.
The 77-yard pass was the eighth longest in Colonial history and the longest one in which either Sinclair or Jeter was involved.
Sinclair notched his 14th-career game with multiple touchdown passes, and Jeter broke his career high with 113 receiving yards as he grabbed a TD for the second straight week.
The RMU defense came up huge on the next drive, forcing a 3-and-out by the Flyers, giving the Colonial offense the ball back with a little under three minutes left.
RMU advanced the ball close to midfield with enough time remaining for a comeback, but the Colonials could not convert on a fourth down play, and the Flyers were able to run the clock out from that point on.
Senior defensive lineman Nolan Nearhoof (Gibsonia, Pa. / Mars Area) posted nine tackles, including a sack, moving past 150 career tackles in the process. The sack was the 17th of his career, which moved him into a tie for second in career sacks at RMU as he is now two away from tying the record.
Senior linebacker Mike Cook (Victoria, Minn. / Eden Prarie (Winona State)) tallied a career-best and game-high 11 tackles, collecting his second-career double-figure tackle performance.
Junior Chris Thompkins (Webster, N.Y. / Webster) netted five tackles along with his first sack of the season. Sophomore Tony LaMancusa (Webster, N.Y. / Webster) tied his career high with a 49-yard punt in the second quarter.
After playing in each of the first three weeks of the season, Robert Morris will have its lone bye week of the season next weekend. The Colonials will resume action in two weeks as they host in-state foe Lafayette Saturday, Sept. 29, at 6:00 p.m. in just the second home night game in program history as part of the University’s Homecoming festivities.