Preview: Football looks to stampede Buffalo

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Preview: Football looks to stampede Buffalo

Benjamin Blanchet/The Spectrum

Benjamin Blanchet/The Spectrum

Benjamin Blanchet/The Spectrum

Nick Hedderick, Sports Editor

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BUFFALO, NY– Robert Morris begins a new football season under the lights on Thursday when they take on the Buffalo Bulls. The Colonials look to improve on their 2-9 record from last season by upsetting the heavily favored Bulls on their home turf. What should we expect from these two teams? Let’s take a closer look.

Previewing the Colonials

Robert Morris is going to try and grab the Bulls by the horns in this opening game of the season. Bernard Clark was able to generate interest in the football program for the first time in several years last year, and despite the subpar record, the RMU faithful remain confident that the tide will turn for the football team in the not so distant future.

Defense is the main concern for the Colonials in this game, much like several games last season. RMU allowed 478 total points last season which averages out to 43.5 points per game. Their run defense was especially weak last season as opponents averaged 260.6 yards each game. Buffalo’s 191.1 yards per game on the ground last season might be a number to focus on when these teams meet. A key storyline will be whether or not the Bulls try to test this year’s RMU run defense right out of the gate. Adam Wollet, the team leader in tackles, graduated in the spring. Wollet’s impact as a leader both on and off the field will be missed, and RMU needs to fill the void left by their former defensive star.

On the offensive side, the Colonials are returning several key players, minus quarterback Jimmy Walker. Despite finishing second to last in terms of total offense in the NEC last year, the Colonials offense is filled with a talented crop of players that could wreak havoc on opposing defenses this season. George Martin, a redshirt sophomore, will start under center for RMU. He threw two touchdown passes on 35 attempts last season in addition to an interception. Matthew Gonzalez, who broke the RMU single-season touchdown record last year, will return at tight end for his senior season. Alijah Jackson and Terence Stephens, Jr. will once again be a powerful one-two punch in the backfield, and Buffalo needs to prevent these talented running backs from getting into a rhythm in this contest.

A look at Buffalo

Buffalo not only reached the MAC Championship last year after going 7-1 in conference play, but they were also able to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2013.

The Bulls averaged well over 400 yards per game last season in large part due to their quarterback Tyree Jackson. Jackson was the MAC Most Valuable Player last season and decided to leave the Buffalo Bulls to join the Buffalo Bills. Sophomore running back Jaret Patterson returns in the backfield with his sights set on improving from his 1,000 plus yards last season. RMU’s rush defense struggled to stop opponents last season, and they might have a tough time containing Patterson.

In addition to Buffalo’s great offensive production last year, the defense allowed 345 yards per game last season. This ranked 5th in the MAC last season out of 12 teams. Chuck Harris was the Bulls best player on the defensive side of the ball, and his stellar play last season landed him on the Chicago Bears. The team will look to make up for this loss by utilizing Taylor Riggins, who will look to build off of his five sacks and 21 tackles last year. He is a key player on their defense, and the RMU offensive line needs to prevent him from reaching Martin, Jackson and Stephens in the backfield.

Players to Watch

Matthew Gonzalez, Tight End, Robert Morris

Gonzalez is coming off of a record-setting year last season. He is perhaps the biggest receiving threat on this team. Expect him to try and carry this momentum into the game against Buffalo.

Tim Vecchio, Wide Receiver, Robert Morris

Vecchio looks to have a big senior year after netting just 276 receiving yards last year, a career-low at RMU. Vecchio is a very talented and capable receiver that could make a noticeable impact on Thursday.

Taylor Riggins, Defensive End, Buffalo

Riggins proved last year that he has all the required tools to make a huge mark on this Buffalo defense. Look for him to break through the RMU line a few times and pressure George Martin.

Jaret Patterson, Running Back, Buffalo

Jaret Patterson dominated opposing defenses last year and was even named the MAC Freshman of the Year. I predict that he will continue his great play by scoring at least two touchdowns.

Prediction

The loss of Tyree Jackson might slow down the Bulls offense at first, but Jaret Patterson is going to find the open field and provide Buffalo with the jolt they need. On the other side of the ball, RMU is going to keep up with Buffalo for a while, however, the Bulls will pull away for good just before the half and then keep the pressure on Robert Morris. Despite the prediction of a loss, I think RMU will make great strides as the season progresses.

Final Score: 49-16 Buffalo

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