|Langer’s Late Field Goal Lifts RMU over Lafayette|
Moon Township, Pa. - Senior Greg Langer (Wexford, Pa. / Pine-Richland) knocked through a 33-yard field goal with just 19 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Robert Morris University football team to a 31-28 victory over previously undefeated Lafayette in the inaugural meeting between the two programs Saturday evening in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Joe Walton Stadium in just the second home night game in program history.
Langer’s winning boot, which was his 10th consecutive made field goal--extending his own program record, came after an eight-play, 67-yard drive that began on RMU’s own 17-yard line with 2:23 remaining. A key play in the drive was a 43-yard completion from senior Jeff Sinclair (Natrona Heights, Pa. / Highlands) to junior Donte Jeter (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Oliver) as the latter outjumped a Leopard defender who was draped over him. Sinclair also picked up a key first down with his legs later in the drive, setting up Langer’s heroics.
Sinclair accounted for a career-high 285 yards of total offense, one of the top 10 single-game totals in RMU history, against the Leopards, a team which was receiving votes in both national polls entering the week. He rushed 13 times for 84 yards, including a touchdown, and threw for 201 yards and an additional two scores through the air. It marked his second straight and 15th-career game with multiple touchdown passes. Sinclair also became the third Colonial ever to surpass 60 touchdowns responsible for and the fifth Colonial to reach 5,000 yards of total offense in a career.
Jeter caught a career-high seven passes for a career-best 131 yards and has back-to-back 100-yard receiving efforts for the first time in his career.
While the offense certainly had some significant performances, a number of Colonials stood out on the defensive side of the ball as well as RMU forced three Leopard turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown.
Sophomore cornerback Antwan Eddie (Homestead, Fla. / South Dade) forced two turnovers on Lafayette’s first three plays from scrimmage. He intercepted a pass deep in RMU territory to prevent the Leopards from entering the red zone before drilling Leopard wide receiver Mark Ross to force a fumble, which was subsequently recovered by sophomore linebacker Mike Neilson (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Pittsburgh Central Catholic).
Neilson scooped up the ball, his first-ever fumble recovery, and rumbled into the end zone to open the scoring fewer than seven minutes in while subsequently scoring a touchdown for the first time in his career. The play marked the first defensive touchdown for RMU in its past 30 games, dating to the 2009 season.
Eddie’s interception was his second in as many games while he forced a fumble for the first time ever.
True freshmen Marcelis Branch (Homestead, Fla. / Miami Southridge) had an amazing day defensively as he posted a team season-high 14 tackles, 11 of which were of the solo variety, and also contributed an acrobatic, leaping interception in the second quarter, his first-career pick.
Senior linebacker Brad Banas (Houston, Pa. / Chartiers-Houston) posted 10 tackles, tying his career high that he set in RMU’s home opener Sept. 8. Banas added a career-best 3.0 tackles for loss, including a sack that helped force a Lafayette punt.
Senior linebacker Mike Cook (Victoria, Minn. / Eden Prarie (Winona State)) was the third Colonial to post a double-digit tackle figure as he contributed 10 stops. It was his second-consecutive game with double-figure tackles, and he added 1.5 tackles for loss.
After Neilson recovered the fumble that Eddie forced for a touchdown, the RMU defense again held strong as it forced a three-and-out.
The Colonials took over on their own 26-yard line and subsequently marched 72 yards on six plays. Sinclair posted a big 33-yard rush for a first down during the drive and then finished it off when he hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Duane Mitchell (Monroe Falls, Ohio / Stow) on a 26-yard pass to the right corner of the end zone. The play marked the first touchdown reception of Mitchell’s career.
Lafayette responded with its lone score of the first half as the Leopards used eight plays to find the end zone, a drive that was capped off with a 25-yard rush on the second play of the second quarter.
Robert Morris would not back down, though, as the Colonials scored two more touchdowns within the next eight minutes.
The first came on a 10-play, 72-yard drive that saw junior Evan Taylor (Redding, Calif. / Shasta) rush for 20 yards and Sinclair go 5-for-6 for 42 yards as four different receivers caught passes during the drive. Junior tight end Andrew Smith (Cranberry Township, Pa. / Seneca Valley) brought in a key third-down pass in the red zone, which set up redshirt senior Paul Evans (Elma, N.Y. / Iroquois Central) for his second touchdown catch in as many games.
After Branch picked off a Lafayette pass on the ensuing drive, Sinclair found Jeter deep down the field for a 47-yard completion, moving the ball to the Leopards’ 13-yard line. Two plays later, Sinclair used his feet to find the end zone from eight yards out, giving the Colonials a 28-7 cushion, which they would take into the locker room at halftime.
Lafayette scored touchdowns on each of its first three drives of the second half while RMU was forced to punt on each of its first three chances, leaving the game deadlocked, 28-28, with about six minutes remaining. Each team was forced to punt quickly, and the Leopards once again had a chance to move ahead. However, the Colonial defense held firm when it was needed the most as senior defensive lineman Nolan Nearhoof (Gibsonia, Pa. / Mars Area) and junior Chris Thompkins (Webster, N.Y. / Webster) combined on a sack that forced the Leopards into third down-and-20, eventually forcing a punt.
After Robert Morris moved ahead on Langer’s field goal, Lafayette had one last-gasp attempt at a Hail Mary, but senior Stephen Mitchell (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Pittsburgh Central Catholic) and Thompkins combined on a sack to send the Colonial faithful into a frenzy.
Taylor finished with 94 yards rushing on 16 carries, averaging nearly six yards per rush.
Nearhoof tallied 1.5 sacks on the evening, moving his career total at RMU in that category to 18.5, which is just a half sack shy of matching the program’s all-time record.
Sinclair, who moved into the top 10 in career rushing yards at RMU Saturday night, notched the 15th rushing touchdown of his career, moving him into a tie for fifth place all-time at Robert Morris.
RMU finished with 386 yards of total offense, including 185 rushing yards, both of which were the program’s highest marks since its Homecoming victory in 2011.
Robert Morris has now won 14 of its past 18 Homecoming games and won its second home night game in as many tries. The Colonials improved to 15-6-1 all-time when playing after a bye week, including a notable 11-1 mark at home. RMU also moved to 19-11-1 when meeting an opponent for the first time and 67-4 all-time when scoring at least 30 points.
After notching a last-second win in its final non-conference game, Robert Morris will play Northeast Conference (NEC) foes in the final seven weeks of the season. The Colonials will start a two-game roadtrip next Saturday, Oct. 6, at Noon as they travel to in-state rival Saint Francis to meet the Red Flash for the 19th time in the program’s 19 seasons.