|Robert Morris to Take on Pioneers in Road Finale|
Robert Morris (3-6 / 2-4) @ Sacred Heart (2-7 / 1-5)
Top Story - The Robert Morris University football team will play its 2012 road finale against Sacred Heart this Saturday, Nov. 10, at Noon at Campus Field. RMU is coming off a 17-13, come-from-behind upset over local rival Duquesne that knocked the Dukes out of the NEC playoff picture. With the rally, senior quarterback Jeff Sinclair now has the most game-winning drives in Colonial history. RMU’s defense also played a major role as it held the Dukes well below their season average of 29 points. Nolan Nearhoof, RMU’s all-time leader in sacks, is currently tied for the NEC lead in sacks per game. RMU and Sacred Heart have split the prior 14 meetings with each team winning on the road the past two years, including the Colonials’ last-minute rally in Connecticut two years ago. In that contest, Sinclair hit Shadrae King with an 8-yard pass with 17 seconds left to cap a 60-yard drive. That win would go on to catapult the Colonials to an eight-game winning streak. After playing the Pioneers, Robert Morris will play its season finale next weekend against Monmouth Nov. 17 as the Colonials celebrate Senior Day.
Quick Stat of the Afternoon - In last Saturday’s 17-13 win over local rival Duquesne, Robert Morris’ defense came through in a big way by limiting one of the league’s top offenses and keeping it in check throughout the game. However, another group of Colonials also performed admirably. RMU’s offensive line, an oft-overlooked part of any team, protected its quarterback well throughout the game as it did not allow a single sack over 60 minutes. With the victory over the Dukes, RMU improved to 14-0 all-time when it does not allow a sack in a conference contest. The Colonials have combined for 478 points in these 14 games, an average of more than 34 per outing. Robert Morris’ offensive line will have a tough task of duplicating the feat against the Pioneers this Saturday as Sacred Heart has 28 sacks, far and away the most in the NEC, and sits ninth nationally in sacks per game.
Saturday’s Opponent - Robert Morris has met up with Sacred Heart in each of the past 14 seasons, and the series is about as even as it can get. The programs have each won seven meetings, and the series is also tied, 3-3, all-time in Connecticut. In the last meeting in Fairfield, Jeff Sinclair threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score with just 17 seconds remaining in the game to rally the Colonials to a 35-31 win. Three of the past four games have been decided by four points or fewer.
All-Time Series vs. Sacred Heart
10/29/11 - L, 15-27; Home
Sacred Quick Outs - Robert Morris has won four of the last six meetings between the two programs … Nolan Nearhoof set a career high with three sacks in last year’s game against the Pioneers … Three of the past four games have been decided by four points or fewer … RMU has scored at least 28 points in each of its past three trips to Fairfield … RMU’s 9-7 victory in 2009 (10/31) is one of just three occurrences in school history in which the Colonials failed to score 10 points but still garnered a victory … Tyjuan Massey (2002-05) set RMU school records for receptions (10), receiving yards (272) and all-purpose yards (349) in the 2005 meeting between these programs … The longest fumble return in school history for Robert Morris came in a 41-21 victory @ Sacred Heart (11/11/06) almost six years ago, as former defensive back James Kazil (2004-07) returned a fumble 94 yards for a touchdown.
On This Date (Nov. 10) in Robert Morris Football History - Robert Morris is 2-0 all-time on November 10, and the Colonials scored more than 40 points in both of their previous games on this date. Incidentally, the last time RMU played on Nov. 10 was a 41-31 victory over Sacred Heart in 2007. The Colonials led 21-16 at the half before scoring three straight touchdowns in fewer than 12 minutes to open up a convincing lead before two late Pioneer scores set the final margin. Erik Cwalinski (2005-08) completed 15-of-25 passes, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. Alvin Hill (2005-07) caught five passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns. The Colonial defense also played a huge role in the victory as it forced five turnovers, including a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by Shannon Smoot (2006-08). Chad Wengert (2004-07) had a monster game defensively as he tallied 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception and a forced fumble that directly led to a Colonial score.
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 108-85-1 (.559).
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 - RMU used a fourth-quarter touchdown and a late defensive stand to take down local rival Duquesne, 17-13, ending the Dukes’ chances of a second straight NEC championship … Duane Mitchell caught the game-winning touchdown, a 41-yard catch, which was the longest reception of his career … The Colonials rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to win for the second time in three games … RMU gained more yards per play than its opponent for the third straight game … The Colonials held Duquesne star running back Larry McCoy to under 100 yards rushing for just the seventh time in the Dukes’ last 27 games … Nolan Nearhoof had 11 tackles and 2.5 TFL.
Offense Beware - True freshman cornerback Marcelis Branch has displayed a penchant for making big plays. He has forced five turnovers this season--interceptions and forced fumbles combined--a figure which puts him alone atop the NEC. Branch has actually forced a turnover in four of the past six games.
Winner, Winner - Senior quarterback Jeff Sinclair led the game-winning drive in last week’s victory over Duquesne to rally RMU to a 17-13 comeback victory. In piloting the six-play, 77-yard march, Sinclair broke the Colonials’ program record for most game-winning drives in the fourth quarter (or overtime) of a career with six. Erik Cwalinski (2005-08) had five such drives. Additionally, Cwalinski and Sinclair are the only two Colonials to lead RMU on a game-winning drive in at least three different years.
One & Done - The Robert Morris defense has done a strong job keeping its opponent out of the end zone lately as the Colonials have allowed just two offensive touchdowns in the past two weeks. This is the case despite the fact that RMU’s last two foes, Wagner and Duquesne, combined for eight trips to the red zone in the past two contests.
Convert and Continue - RMU was 7-of-14 on third down in last week’s win, its highest such percentage in its past 13 games. RMU has also converted at least one fourth down try in three straight games for the first time since 2004.
Block Party - RMU’s special teams made a big play on the opening drive of last week’s win over rival Duquesne as Adrian Perez blocked a punt and Ryan Thermil scooped up the pigskin to set up the offense with great field position.