RMU improves to 4-0 in the NEC with win over LIU


Photo credit: David Auth

Nathan Breisinger, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP– For the fourth straight game, the Robert Morris football team (5-4, 4-0 NEC) trailed, and for the fourth straight game, the Colonials erased that deficit to come out victorious. The LIU Sharks (0-8, 0-7 NEC) held a 17-14 lead heading into halftime, but RMU would score 14 unanswered points to close out the game thanks to the solid ground game from the Colonials. Robert Morris’ win streak has extended to four games, as they remain unbeaten the NEC.

The Colonials started the ballgame exactly the way they envisioned it. RMU started on their own 35 and worked their way across midfield on their initial two plays with a 14-yard reception by Garrett Houser from quarterback George Martin, followed by an 11-yard run by Alijah Jackson. Alijah Jackson would keep things rolling during this drive with 30 rushing yards on three carries, ending with a 12-yard touchdown run as he bounced outside to the right evading the Sharks’ defense for the score.

After the rushing touchdown, LIU looked for a response, as they had been shutout in their prior two matchups. The Sharks showed their versatility in their first drive by mixing their offense with wildcats, jet sweeps, quarterback keepers and passes. After they moved the ball within the Colonials 20-yard line, the Sharks would settle for a 34-yard field goal off of the foot of Briant DeFelice, making the game 7-3 and ending a two-game scoreless drought for the Sharks.

The Colonials did not wait to extend their lead, as they responded on the very next drive. On this possession, RMU relied on the passing game as Matthew Gonzalez made his presence felt, hauling in four passes for 66 yards, including a big 31-yard touchdown reception up the middle of the field. This drive would be all that was heard from Gonzalez for the rest of the game.

As both LIU and RMU would struggle on their next two drives, LIU would then gain momentum on their next two drives. Jacob Cheshire completed a pass to Tim Marinan for 22 yards that would put them at the RMU 9 yard-line. After three rushing plays, Cheshire would keep the ball at the one-yard line for a Sharks touchdown.

On the ensuing kickoff, LIU would use the element of surprise as they would onside kick the ball and eventually recovery it on the RMU 31. On seven out of their next nine plays, the Sharks would keep it on the ground, which would end in a Malcolm Denbow eight-yard wildcat touchdown run.

To finish out the half, the Colonials continued to struggle offensively, including Martin throwing an interception into the hands of Kobe Hylton on the first play of the following drive. On the next Colonials possession, Martin would fumble on the very first play, luckily it was recovered by Jackson for a large loss of yards. The Colonials staggered into halftime with not much of a spark, but adjustments were made in the locker room.

LIU’s opening drive of the second half was short and the Colonials would get the ball back. During RMU’s drive, they would start on their own 10-yard line, but that was no problem for the Colonials, as they would go 90 yards on nine plays including a big 58-yard run from Alijah Jackson down the LIU’s four yard-line, however, it would come at a cost as Jackson would suffer an injury and not return to the game.

“There is always a concern as we don’t know whats going on right now, but he landed on his shoulder awkwardly, so hopefully he’ll be ok,” head coach Bernard Clark, Jr. said.

After a false start penalty, the Colonials would work their way into the endzone thanks to a Geroge Martin 12-yard scamper, as the Colonials regained the lead by the score of 21-17.

On the following drive for the Sharks, the defense would step up big time with a Tavin Harville interception, however, the Colonials would go four and out on the ensuing drive.

Long Island would once again come up with an empty possession, which led to the Colonials getting the ball at their own 20. Robert Morris would put together a strong and methodical drive while burning five minutes off the clock, and taking the game into the fourth quarter. After relying on the rush game for a majority of the drive, the Colonials would cap off the drive with a beautifully thrown ball from Martin into the hands of Garrett Houser in the endzone, putting RMU up 28-17.

“The thing about George is that he shows consistency throughout the games and he started out real strong today and our confidence in him keeps getting better and better,” Clark said. “The pass he made to Houser was an unbelievable throw as he went right over the top of the defensive back.”

As the fourth quarter continued on, the defense continued to impress, including a short possession for LIU after Houser’s touchdown. On the Sharks’ next drive, Jacob White intercepted Cheshire, smothering any hope of a comeback. In their last attempt to score nearing one-minute to play, Cheshire would throw another pick, this time to Tiheem Crocker.

As the defense continued its dominant second half, the running game closed it out on the offense for the Colonials. After Jackson’s injury, Terence Stephens Jr. and Jordan Johnson stepped in to carry the Colonials to victory. They combined for a total of 80 yards on 18 carries.

“We do have that one, two, three punch as they all have different styles of running. So we have those guys to rely on,” Clark said.

As the Colonials closed this one out, they once again showed that they have the ability to mount a comeback after facing a deficit.

“It shows a lot of moxie, but I guess they feel better when playing from behind,” Clark said. “We have to stop doing that because the next opponent we have, I don’t think we can start slow, so we need to play consistently throughout the game.”

As for their next opponent, the Duquesne Dukes (6-2, 4-0 NEC), the Colonials cannot be inconsistent, as the Dukes will give them a strong 60 minutes of football when the come into Joe Walton Stadium next Saturday.