Preview: Colonials seek first conference win since 2016

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Preview: Colonials seek first conference win since 2016

Photo credit: David Auth

Photo credit: David Auth

Photo credit: David Auth

Photo credit: David Auth

Nick Hedderick, Sports Editor

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Loretto, PA– After closing out non-conference play with a 45-10 loss against a ranked Youngstown State team (4-1, 0-1 MVFC), the Robert Morris football team (1-4, 0-0 NEC) turns their attention towards Saint Francis University (3-2, 1-0 NEC) to begin conference play. The Colonials start NEC play in hopes of coming away with their first conference victory since 2016. Both teams are coming off of a bye week as well, adding just a little more intrigue to this matchup as the extra week of practice and rest from game action could benefit both sides.

Recapping RMU

Following their 1-4 start to the season, the Colonials look to put their sluggish start behind them as NEC play commences. Robert Morris is currently the only NEC team that hasn’t played in a conference game yet, and they want to make that first game count by picking up an early conference victory.

In their most recent game against then no. 22 Youngstown State, RMU jumped out to a 7-0 lead thanks to a touchdown pass from George Martin to Terence Stephens. Despite this huge momentum boost to start things off, the Penguins cooled down the Colonials’ momentum by scoring 31 unanswered points. A field goal brought RMU within three touchdowns, but YSU found the endzone twice more to extend their lead to 35 points, a lead that would stand as the Penguins won 45-10.

Alijah Jackson pushed his total yards on the season to 501 following his third consecutive game with over 100 yards rushing. Aside from Jackson’s performance, the Colonials struggled to get into a flow on offense. Martin went just 4-11 in a performance that also featured just his second interception of the season.

The defense struggled against Youngstown State, but the unit has shown signs of promise this season. The Colonials currently allow 30.2 points per game, which is last in the NEC. As for total defense, an area that they finished in dead last in 2018, the Colonials have improved to fifth in that category. Stepping up on defense are Mason Gray, Jacob White and Aniello Buzzacco, all of whom place in the top 10 in tackles for the NEC.

Scouting the Red Flash

Saint Francis will carry a winning record into their matchup with Robert Morris. They have avoided a losing streak, but have also found themselves unable to string together a winning streak, as they alternated back and forth between wins and losses each week.

In their most recent game against the Bulldogs of Bryant (1-5, 0-1 NEC), the Red Flash walked away with a 16-6 win. Despite traveling to Bulldog territory for homecoming, the Red Flash were unphased as the defense allowed Bryant to convert of just two of 17 third downs. Bryant managed only 68 yards on the ground against a tough SFU defense, a defense that ranks second in the NEC in scoring.

Offensively, the Red Flash sit just one spot ahead of the Colonials in the NEC rankings with 303 yards per game compared to RMU’s 296.8. Individually, SFU doesn’t have one player with more than 200 rush yards on the season. In fact, their leading rusher, Joel Denley, averages just 40.75 yards per game. Quarterback Jason Brown has had a solid season, but accuracy could factor into the game on Saturday. His completion percentage sits at just 55.63 so far this year. He does do a fantastic job of not turning the ball over, as he has just two interceptions this year.

Players to Watch

Alijah Jackson (RB, RMU)

It seems like each week, I pick Jackson as a player to watch. I will continue to do this until he gives me a reason not to choose him. He has been able to find success in nearly every game this season, and the Colonials will look to break down an SFU rush defense that found success in their last game.

Matthew Gonzalez (TE, RMU)

Gonzalez is a fantastic threat for the Colonials’ offense. He an astounding 21.85 yards per reception. He is the man that George Martin will look for when he looks downfield. Expect Gonzalez to have a big game against SFU following his two catch performance last week.

Joel Denley (RB, SFU)

Despite subpar numbers this season, Denley showed promise against Bryant by rushing for 100 yards against the Bulldogs, his first performance of the season that broke the century mark. RMU’s rush defense is towards the bottom of the NEC, so look for Denley to exploit that come Saturday.

Brian Lee, Jr. (LB, SFU)

With 19 tackles on the season, 16 of them being solo tackles, Lee has shown that he is a threat to any ball carrier. He does a great job of pressuring the offense and has found a lot of success this year. Look for a big game on his end against RMU.

Prediction

This game could be a very one, and it could easily go either way. I expect this one to remain close, and I expect the Colonials to end their NEC drought by utilizing their offensive weapons to carry them to a narrow victory.

Final score: 23-20, RMU

 

 

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