|Colonials Complete Comeback in Final Minute|
Moon Township, Pa. - For the third time in the past four weeks, the Robert Morris University football team rallied in the fourth quarter as the Colonials posted a 21-17 victory over Sacred Heart Saturday afternoon at Campus Field after trailing 17-6 with fewer than 10 minutes remaining.
RMU took the lead for the first time all day with just 35 seconds remaining in regulation when senior fullback Nick Groat (Youngstown, Ohio / Austintown-Fitch) hauled in his first-career touchdown reception in his penultimate collegiate game. The catch came on a fourth down play as head coach Joe Walton’s gamble to go for the win, instead of attempting a chip shot field goal that could tie the score, clearly paid dividends.
Robert Morris kept the Pioneers from scoring on their final possession as senior safety Cameron Chadwick (Vista, Calif. / College of Canyons) tallied his second interception of the afternoon to clinch the victory.
Although the offense provided the difference late in the game, RMU’s defense kept the Colonials within reach throughout much of the contest. For the third straight game, Robert Morris allowed just one offensive touchdown, which came on a mere 41-yard drive, as RMU conceded just 10 points to the Pioneer offense. The RMU defense, which allowed Sacred Heart just 87 yards of total offense in the second half, also helped the Colonials garner more yards per play than their opponent for the fourth-consecutive week.
Chadwick tallied a team-high nine tackles, six of which were solo, and added a half tackle for loss and a pass breakup in addition to his two picks.
After the first three drives of the game ended in punts, the RMU defense made its first big stand as junior linebacker Luke Mueller (Cranberry Township, Pa. / Seneca Valley) made a strong solo tackle to turn the ball over on downs as the Pioneers went for it on fourth down-and-five from the Colonial 28-yard line and were stopped short.
Sacred Heart would strike on its next possession as the Pioneers used good field position to launch an eight-play, 41-yard drive that was capped off with a 4-yard pass.
The Pioneers looked to double their lead on their next drive as they moved the ball inside the red zone to set up a first-and-goal chance. After a nine-yard run on first down, Sacred Heart was knocking on the door, but the RMU defense held on two goal-line rushes to force a short field goal try that was converted.
After two more punts, Robert Morris drove into the red zone, and senior Greg Langer (Wexford, Pa. / Pine-Richland) knocked through a 24-yard field goal to set the halftime score.
RMU forced a Pioneer punt on the opening drive of the second half. Then junior Evan Taylor (Redding, Calif. / Shasta) ripped off a career-long 65-yard run to move the ball into the red zone where Langer made his second field goal of the day.
On the Colonials’ next possession, a deflected pass attempt fell right into the arms of a Pioneer defender, and he would return it 14 yards to the end zone to push the host’s advantage to 17-6.
Both defenses would take over for a stretch as each of the game’s next eight drives would result in no more than 12 total yards.
With the Colonials still trailing, 17-6, they took over possession early in the fourth quarter on their own 24-yard line.
Robert Morris moved the ball into Pioneer territory on a 38-yard reverse as junior wide receiver Donte Jeter (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Oliver) scampered down the left sideline. Facing a fourth-and-five later in the drive, senior Jeff Sinclair (Natrona Heights, Pa. / Highlands) hit Jeter with a pass that moved the sticks. A 19-yard pass to redshirt senior Paul Evans (Elma, N.Y. / Iroquois Central) then moved the ball into the red zone. After two rushes were relatively unsuccessful, the Colonials dialed up perfect play action on third-and-goal as Sinclair lofted a pass to junior tight end D.J. Pearson (New Brighton, Pa. / New Brighton) to find the end zone.
Pearson’s score also doubled as his first-ever reception for the Colonials, but he wasn’t done yet. RMU went for a two-point try, and after scrambling away from a rush, Sinclair again found Pearson to complete the attempt.
The Colonial defense forced punts on each of the Pioneers’ next two drives, and RMU’s offense took over on its own 18-yard line with fewer than three minutes left.
Sinclair hit Evans down the seam of the defense for 41 yards on the drive’s opening play to move the ball into Sacred Heart territory. Sinclair then picked up one first down with his legs before he hit sophomore Duane Mitchell (Monroe Falls, Ohio / Stow) cutting across the field for 19 yards to move the ball to the Pioneers’ 11-yard line.
After the next three plays netted nine yards, RMU faced fourth down-and-one from Sacred Heart’s two-yard line. The Colonials elected to go for it, and RMU surprised the Pioneers by sending Groat out of the backfield into the left corner of the end zone to take the lead as the senior tallied his second career score.
By orchestrating the game-winning drive, Sinclair extended his own program record for the most game-winning drives in the fourth quarter (or overtime) of a career to seven. He also moved into sole possession of third place in career touchdown passes at RMU with 55.
RMU was 2-for-2 on fourth down Saturday and is now 7-of-8 in such situations in its last four games.
Robert Morris is now 8-7 all-time against Sacred Heart as it has now won each of the last two games in Connecticut in the final minute.
Evans’ 41-yard catch was the longest reception of his career. Jeter became just the sixth Colonial in school history to tally at least 600 receiving yards in a season.
The Colonials will look to win their third straight game to close the season next Saturday, Nov. 17, as they play their season finale against Monmouth. The opening kickoff is set for Noon.