|Colonials Look to Build Off Homecoming Win|
Robert Morris (1-3 / 0-1) @ Saint Francis (2-3 / 1-1)
Top Story - The Robert Morris University football team will look for its second straight win this Saturday, Oct. 6, at Noon as the Colonials travel east to take on in-state rival Saint Francis at DeGol Field in the first of seven-consecutive Northeast Conference (NEC) matchups to close the regular season. RMU is coming off of a thrilling, 31-28, victory in the program’s inaugural meeting with Lafayette last Saturday. The Leopards came into the game 3-0 and receiving votes nationally, but Greg Langer’s 33-yard field goal with 19 seconds left set the final margin. Marcelis Branch was named NEC Defensive Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week after tallying 15 tackles and forcing two turnovers. The Colonials finished with 386 yards of total offense and won on Homecoming for the 14th time in their past 18 tries. RMU also moved to 67-4 all-time when scoring 30+ points. RMU enters Saturday’s action having won six straight over Saint Francis. After facing the Red Flash, RMU will remain on the road as it makes the trek to Bryant Saturday, Oct. 13, before returning home to meet Central Connecticut State the following week.
Quick Stat of the Afternoon - Senior Jeff Sinclair posted a career-high 285 yards of total offense in last Saturday’s win over Lafayette as he threw for 201 yards and ran for 84 more. It ranked as one of the top 10 highest such totals in program history and marked the highest single-game total in that category since Drew Geyer (2002-05) posted 313 yards of total offense Oct. 29, 2005. The fact that Robert Morris came out victorious after Sinclair’s effort should come as no surprise as RMU improved to 5-1 (.833) all-time when Sinclair accounts for at least 240 yards of total offense. The Colonials have scored at least 30 points in five of those six games, averaging 33 points per outing. One of the more memorable such games in which Sinclair excelled was Sept. 18, 2010 when RMU stunned No. 15 Liberty, 30-23, behind 253 yards of Sinclair's total offense. RMU’s single-game record for total offense is 429, set by Rich Demaio (2000-03).
Saturday’s Opponent - Saint Francis is one of just three opponents Robert Morris faced in each of the first 18 years the Colonials fielded an intercollegiate program, joining fellow NEC foes Central Connecticut State and Wagner. All-time the Colonials are 15-2-1 (.861) against the Red Flash and enter Saturday’s game on a six-game winning streak against Saint Francis. RMU won the 2011 meeting, which was the first-ever home night game in program history, by jumping out to a 35-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 45-14 win.
All-Time Series vs. Saint Francis
10/8/11 - W, 45-15; Home
Saint Francis Quick Outs - Robert Morris owns a six-game winning streak in the all-time series against Saint Francis ... RMU’s 15 victories against the Red Flash are the most against an opponent in the 19-year history of the program ... The Colonials have averaged 32.7 points per game against Saint Francis in the all-time series while allowing an average of just 10.6 points a contest ... Since dropping a 14-7 overtime decision to the Red Flash in Loretto, Pa., in 2002, the Colonials have scored at least 28 points in each of the last nine meetings, averaging 34.2 points per game over that span … Senior Jeff Sinclair has been responsible for nine touchdowns against the Red Flash in his career, the most ever by a Colonial against Saint Francis.
On This Date (Oct. 6) in Robert Morris Football History - The only game in program history in which Robert Morris did not played on a Saturday came on Oct. 6, 1995 when the Colonials traveled to Gannon for a Friday night kickoff in Erie, Pa. Despite having advantages in passing yards, total yards of offense, turnover margin, time of possession and third-down conversion percentage, RMU dropped an exciting, 30-29, decision to the Golden Knights. Gannon jumped out to a 16-3 halftime advantage and extended its cushion to 30-10 early in the fourth quarter. However, the Colonials came storming back, scoring three touchdowns in a span of 6:24. At the time, with no overtime in NCAA football, the Colonials elected to go for the lead with a two-point conversion with 1:28 remaining, but their pass attempt fell incomplete. Tim Hall (1994-95) rushed for 126 yards on 20 carries while Andy Scruggs (1994-95) threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Nate List (1994-97) led the defensive effort with 11 tackles.
Head Coach Joe Walton (19th season; Pittsburgh ’57) - At the forefront of the football renaissance at Robert Morris University throughout its 19-year history is Joe Walton, who has built the Colonials from a fledgling program into one of the top Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams in the region.
The one constant associated with the program, Walton was named the first head coach July 27, 1993. He started the program from scratch, completing everything from hiring assistant coaches to purchasing equipment to recruiting student-athletes for the team’s inaugural season in 1994. He owns an overall record of 106-82-1 (.563).
Walton’s fingerprints are all over the football program,and to prove that, RMU has played its home games since 2005 in a stadium that bears his name. During his tenure, Walton has led Robert Morris to the first Northeast Conference championship in 1996, guided RMU to a perfect 10-0 season in 2000 and in 2010 helped lead the Colonials to the NEC’s inaugural bid to the NCAA FCS Playoffs with their league-high sixth regular-season championship.
“It’s hard to believe,” Walton speaks on how fast time has elapsed. “I’ve said this many times before, and I mean it when I say that this situation is one of the best things that has ever happened to me in my life. It happened at the right time. Before this position became available, I felt I was too young to quit coaching, but I wasn’t anxious to get back into pro football. When this came along, it was the perfect fit. This situation was the perfect opportunity for me to continue to do what I like to do, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Under Walton’s tutelage, the Colonials have claimed outright NEC regular-season titles three times (1997, 1999, 2000) while sharing three others (1996, 1998, 2010). Walton led Robert Morris to back-to-back ECAC Bowl victories in 1996 and 1997, and in 1999 and 2000 he guided RMU to a pair of NCAA I-AA mid-major national crowns according to Don Hansen’s National Weekly Football Gazette.
In 2010, Walton added to his legacy by engineering the Colonials on an eight-game winning streak for a share of the NEC regular-season title and the NEC’s first bid in the NCAA FCS Playoffs. In the process he picked up his 100th career victory in the collegiate ranks.
Last Time Out - Greg Langer knocked through a 33-yard field goal with just 19 seconds remaining in regulation to lift Robert Morris to a 31-28 victory over previously undefeated Lafayette … Langer’s winning boot came after a 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 Jeff Sinclair to Donte Jeter as the latter outjumped a Leopard defender who was draped over him … Antwan Eddie tallied his second interception is as many games … Mike Neilson scooped up a fumble recovery and returned it for a defensive touchdown, the first of his career … Brad Banas posted 10 tackles, tying his career high, and added a career-best 3.0 tackles for loss, including a sack.
Winner, Winner - Senior quarterback Jeff Sinclair led an eight-play, 67-yard to set up the game-winning field goal last Saturday against Lafayette. In doing so, he became only the third quarterback in RMU history to lead at least four game-winning drives in the fourth quarter (or overtime) in his career. Additionally, he is one of just two Colonials to lead such a game-winning drive in three different years. Erik Cwalinski (2005-08) holds the Robert Morris record with five game-winning drives in his career.
Mighty Marcelis - True freshman Marcelis Branch earned a unique distinction as he was named Northeast Conference (NEC) Defensive Player of the Week and the NEC Rookie of the Week this past Monday. Branch, starting in just his third collegiate game, helped RMU to a victory over previously undefeated Lafayette, a squad which was receiving votes in both major national polls entering the game. In earning this pair of awards, Branch became the first Colonial in program history to earn conference defensive and rookie honors in the same season, let alone the same week. He is also just the third Colonial, joining Nick Downs (1997-2000) and Mike Niklos (2003-07), to claim each of these accomplishments during an entire career. Branch had a huge impact on the game as he forced two turnovers, helping put points on the board for RMU, while also contributing a team season-high 15 tackles, 12 of which were of the solo variety. Branch’s 15 tackles tied him for the second-highest figure by a Robert Morris freshman in a single game and the most since James Noel (2002-05) posted 15 in 2002.
Bouncing Back - Although Robert Morris dropped its NEC opener to defending league champion Albany, history suggests that RMU could bounce back in league play. In four of the previous six seasons in which the Colonials dropped their conference lidlifter, they rebounded to post a winning NEC record, including in 2001 when they finished 6-1, as they started a six-game winning streak with a win over Saint Francis.
Go Deep - Junior wide receiver Donte Jeter caught a career-high seven passes for a career-best 131 yards in last Saturday’s win over Lafayette. That performance came just one game after he notched 113 yards receiving at Dayton (9/15). With those two efforts, Jeter became the first Colonial to post back-to-back 100+ receiving performances since Sherrod Evers (2006; 2008-09) did it in the first two games of the 2008 season when he tallied 159 and 118 against Morehead State and Bucknell, respectively. Additionally, Jeter caught a career-long 77-yard pass at Dayton (9/15), the longest in the program’s past 45 games.
Near a Record - Robert Morris senior defensive lineman Nolan Nearhoof not only stands up in the classroom but also on the football field. Nearhoof claimed his second-consecutive All-NEC First Team honor in 2011 despite missing the final two games due to injury. In doing so, Nearhoof became just the third player in the league, on offense or defense, to earn an all-conference first team award in both 2010 and 2011. He finished fourth on the team with 60 tackles last year, 24 of which were solo stops. He also led the Colonials in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (12.5), totals that were good enough to rank fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Northeast Conference. Nearhoof currently ranks as RMU's active leader in tackles (162), tackles for loss (24.5) and sacks (18.5). His 18.5 sacks are the second most all-time at RMU as he closes in on the program record of 19, which is currently held by Ray Gensler (2003-06).