|RMU Comes from Behind to Grab Thrilling Win|
Moon Township, Pa. - Junior Deontae Howard (Clairton, Pa. / Clairton) ran for a 2-yard touchdown, his second-career score, with just 1:50 remaining in regulation to lift the Robert Morris University football team to a come-from-behind, 37-31, victory over Central Connecticut State in Northeast Conference (NEC) action Saturday afternoon at a rainy Joe Walton Stadium.
The Blue Devils were able to drive to the RMU 13-yard line on their final possession, but the Colonial defense held its ground and did not allow Central Connecticut any more positive yards once it had reached the red zone.
Senior Jeff Sinclair (Natrona Heights, Pa. / Highlands) threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 54 on the ground, accumulating 268 yards of total offense and led RMU on both its game-tying and game-winning drives. In doing so, Sinclair tied the Colonials’ program record for most game-winning drives in the fourth quarter (or overtime) of a career with five.
Sinclair’s fourth multi-TD pass outing in five games this season allowed him to surpass a couple of notable marks as he became the fourth Colonial ever to reach 50 career touchdown passes and the fifth to surpass 5,000 career passing yards.
Sinclair was aided by another strong effort from the RMU ground game as the Colonials tallied a season-high 198 rushing yards on the afternoon. With that effort, Robert Morris has now run for at least 170 yards in four consecutive games for just the second time since 2000. Additionally, the Colonials racked up at least 400 yards of total offense and at least 30 points for the second straight week.
Junior Evan Taylor (Redding, Calif. / Shasta) was the primary ballcarrier for RMU and produced his third-consecutive rushing effort that topped the century mark. Taylor ran for 126 yards on 20 attempts, averaging over six yards per carry, and finished the day with 140 all-purpose yards.
Junior wide receiver Donte Jeter (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Oliver) posted 103 receiving yards and a career-best two receptions for touchdowns as he topped 100 receiving yards for the third time this season. With that effort, Jeter became the first opposing player to post at least 100 receiving yards against the Blue Devils since former Colonial Shadrae King accomplished the feat in 2009.
Senior Nolan Nearhoof (Gibsonia, Pa. / Mars Area) had a strong performance defensively as he contributed 11 tackles, 2.0 tackles for a loss, one sack, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup. Nearhoof moved into the career top 10 in tackles for loss as he now has 29.5 over his four years.
True freshman Marcelis Branch (Homestead, Fla. / Miami Southridge) notched an interception that directly led to the game-winning score, tallied three pass breakups, including two during CCSU’s final drive, and added six tackles.
After forcing a quick CCSU punt to open the game, RMU opened the scoring with a 5-play, 35-yard drive, which was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Ryan Thermil (Fort Washington, Md. / St. Joseph's & St. Agnes), the first of the sophomore’s career. That play was set up by a fourth-and-one conversion as Sinclair found tight end Tyler Digby (New Westminster, British Columbia / New Westminster) for a 25-yard completion.
RMU held the Blue Devils to a three-and-out on their next possession and proceeded to drive to Central Connecticut’s 7-yard line, but due to a penalty and a missed field goal, the Colonials could not add to their lead.
After each team punted once, Rob Hollomon broke free for a 73-yard run, setting up the Blue Devils’ opening touchdown that tied the game early in the second quarter.
RMU responded immediately, though, as it drove 75 yards on seven plays, aided by 36 rushing yards from Taylor, and Thermil once again punched the ball across the goal line in a short yardage situation. RMU converted its only third down on the drive when Sinclair found senior William Quarles (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Baldwin) for a 15-yard reception.
Central Connecticut State tied the game on its ensuing drive on a 75-yard touchdown pass as Matthew Tyrell crossed the goal line, bringing the score to 14-14, where it remained until halftime.
RMU drove 44 yards after receiving the opening kickoff of the second half to set up a 38-yard field goal which senior Greg Langer (Wexford, Pa. / Pine-Richland) converted, giving RMU a 17-14 advantage. It marked Langer’s eighth consecutive make of attempts from beyond 35 yards.
After each team punted once, Central Connecticut drove into RMU territory, but the Colonial defense made a big play as it stopped the Blue Devils on a fourth down rushing attempt to turn the ball over on downs.
The Colonials instantly took advantage as Sinclair found Jeter down the center of the field on the very next play for a 57-yard touchdown strike.
The scoring continued on the following play as the Blue Devils returned the kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to cut their deficit to 23-21.
The Blue Devils made another key special teams play later in the third quarter when they blocked a punt and returned it to the RMU 25-yard line. CCSU would score on a six-yard rush early in the fourth quarter to take a 28-23 lead.
CCSU would add to its lead on its next drive, but the RMU defense did well to limit the damage. After senior safety Cameron Chadwick (Vista, Calif. / College of Canyons) made a touchdown-saving tackle on a long run, RMU held the Blue Devils three straight times, including two tackles by Nearhoof, to force a 24-yard field goal that was successful.
RMU would take over the ball, trailing by eight, with just over six minutes remaining and quickly tied the proceedings. The Colonials hit the end zone on just two plays as Sinclair found Jeter for a 27-yard touchdown. Then after scrambling toward the sideline on the point after attempt, Sinclair found Howard with a pass in the end zone as the junior made a diving grab to snatch the ball before it hit the ground.
On the Blue Devils’ next drive, Branch registered an interception that set the Colonials up with the ball on the visitors’ 38-yard line.
Taylor ran for 25 yards to help move the ball toward the goal line, and Howard ran it through from two yards out to put Robert Morris on top for good as the Blue Devils could not convert on their final drive.
Senior linebacker Mike Cook (Victoria, Minn. / Eden Prarie (Winona State)) tied his career high with 11 tackles and junior Mark Centofanti (West Mifflin, Pa. / West Mifflin) added 10 stops, including a career-best 1.5 tackles for loss.
Nearhoof became the eighth distinct Colonial to lead (or tie for the lead) the team in tackles in a game this year. True freshman cornerback Brian Jones (Monroeville, Pa. / Gateway) made his first-career start Saturday and posted three solo tackles and a pass breakup.
Robert Morris improved to 14-5 all-time against Central Connecticut State and has never lost to the Blue Devils at Joe Walton Stadium. The Colonials improved to 12-8 all-time in program history when they are tied at halftime.
The Colonials will hope to continue their momentum next Saturday, Oct. 27, as they travel to Wagner. The opening kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.