Colonials’ valiant effort not enough, fall to #17 YSU in overtime


Nick Milliron

QB Matt Barr was sacked in OT to end the game

Zach Laufer, Sports Editor

Once again, the game ended with a sack of freshman quarterback Matt Barr. But this time was completely different.

Unlike the home opener last week, with temperatures floating all afternoon in the mid-to-high-80s, this game cruised in the 50s and featured a steady diet of precipitation.

And, boy, did the rain play a factor in this 21-14 thrilling Youngstown St. (1-1) win over the Robert Morris Colonials (0-2).

Right from the start, everyone, players and coaches included, understood how this game was going to be won. Spoiler alert: it was not through the air.

On the first play of this seemingly monumental task of a game for the Colonials, linebackers Mike Stojkovic and Gerald Ferguson forced Youngstown St. running back Martin Ruiz to cough up the football. This was the first turnover given up by the Penguins this season, and it set up RMU quite nicely in YSU territory.

Stojkovic, the redshirt senior leader of this defense, was all over the field Sat. night, adding a team-leading 11 total tackles and one pass breakup to the forced fumble.

Following the turnover, it only took 10 seconds for Robert Morris to get on the board.

Sophomore running back Rameses Owens sprinted through a gaping hole on the right side of the line, accelerating past two colliding safeties, and eventually coasted 41 yards into the end zone untouched to give the Colonials an early 7-0 lead over the 17th ranked Penguins.

This would be a recurring theme of the evening. Hand it to Owens, let him run. Regroup. Repeat. Due to the lackluster playing conditions caused by mother nature, Barr was unable to muster much of a passing game.

In addition, according to a report from ESPN3, Barr lost the contact in his right eye at some point in the first quarter, which would explain his one completion on six attempts for a total of three yards and one interception in the first half.

Barr finished the contest throwing 2 of 11 for 16 yards and one interception. So, that left Owens to literally, and figuratively, carry the load offensively. Owens ended with 156 yards on 33 carries, adding RMU’s only two touchdowns.

Neither team could get any sort of rhythm on the offensive side for a majority of the game, particularly in the first 3o minutes. It was a battle of 3-and-outs, and, much like the Dayton game, Robert Morris was winning it deep into the contest.

The Colonials carried that 7-0 lead into the locker room, but Youngstown St. came ready to pound the ball down the throats of the defense in the third quarter. A five play, 41-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard TD run by Ruiz tied the game at 7, with 10:40 left in the quarter.

Another RMU three-and-out gave the Penguins a chance to take the lead. They drove right down the field again, but a missed 40-yard field goal attempt by Zak Kennedy (0-2 for the game) preserved the tie for the time being.

Then Robert Morris went back to what got it the lead to start the game: running up the middle with Ram. Owens, on that ensuing drive, carried the ball 11 times for 63 yards, putting the Colonials back up seven after his 10-yard touchdown run.

The drive took six minutes off the game clock, but Youngstown St. promptly went on a six-minute drive of their own, feeding Ruiz and Jody Webb all the way down the field. On fourth-and-goal, from the 1-yard line, it was the quarterback Hunter Wells that fooled everyone by converting a play-action pass to tight end Shane Kuhn.

Unable to put any more points on the board, the game went to overtime tied, 14-14.

However, this unlikely upset was just not meant to be, as the Penguins converted another fourth-and-short situation for a touchdown. Wells rolled out of the pocket, avoided a potential sack from safety Andy Smigiera, and fired a pass in the end zone to wideout I’tavious Harvin.

RMU made it close, though. Owens got them within striking distance of the equalizer, but instead of sticking with the running game, Barr tried to tie the game through the air, resulting in a fourth-and-3 from the 5-yard line.

Once Barr hit the ground, the Penguins began celebrating new head coach Bo Pelini’s first victory with the team.

The Colonials will continue their progression towards a winning season Sept. 19 against Notre Dame (Oh.) (1-1) at Joe Walton Stadium. It is homecoming for Robert Morris, with kickoff set for 3 pm.