Robert Morris v Duquesne Football Preview

Bill Paterson

Justin Criado, Staff Writer

The two cross-town rivals have had two very different seasons in 2011. Robert Morris, the 2010 Northeast Conference Champion, has compiled an atrocious 2-8 record, including a current five-game losing streak. A stone’s throw away, Duquesne is in the hunt for the 2011 NEC crown as they are currently tied with Albany with a 6-1 conference record. The Great Danes beat Duquesne 38-10 Oct. 8, which would give them the tiebreaker in case such a scenario happens.

The Colonials can play spoiler though if they knock of their Pittsburgh rivals at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field Saturday at 12:10 pm. The Dukes are loaded on both sides of the ball as they’ll enter Saturday’s contest ranked first in the FCS in pass defense (138.9 yards per game) and 17th in rushing offense (208.4 YPG).

Leading the charge in the backfield is junior running back Larry McCoy. This season, McCoy has compiled 1,275 yards on 263 carries, finding the end zone 11 times; stats good enough to place him eighth in the nation.

Taking the snaps for DU will be junior Sean Patterson. In his last 15 starts, Patterson has a 12-3 record and has thrown 32 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions. Michigan State transfer and former quarterback Connor Dixon made a seamless transition to wide out as he has been one of Patterson’s favorite targets.

His 35 receptions may look low, but 13 of them have been touchdowns, including 10 in the past seven games. Last year, the Colonial defense held both Patterson and Dixon in check with a 34-11 thrashing at Joe Walton Stadium. Patterson finished 10-for-19 for 80 yards and one touchdown while Dixon caught only one pass for 23 yards.

After graduating seniors such as linebacker Alex DiMichele and Mike Landers, RMU’s defense has been plagued by injuries and limp into the final game without All-NEC defensive end Nolan Nearhoof (torn ACL) and gave up 334 yards of total offense in last week’s 38-17 loss to Wagner.

It’s much of the same for the Colonial offense as starting quarterback Jeff Sinclair was lost for the season when he suffered a knee injury in the second quarter during a 31-24 loss at Central Connecticut State Nov. 5. Freshman Matt Layman took over and started against Wagner before he too suffered an injury in the second quarter leaving the quarterbacking duties to sophomore Tyler Forbes.

Layman’s status for Saturday’s game is uncertain (concussion). The lack of consistency in the running game has left the Colonials vulnerable as tight end Shadrae King has proven to be RMU’s best offensive weapon. King’s 504 yards and five touchdowns paces a Colonial team that never really found their groove.

The offense will face another tough test against a Duquesne defense that features Ohio State transfer linebacker Dorian Bell and Temple transfer cornerback Jared Williams who has four interceptions this season.

RMU will look to snap their five-game slide and avoid finishing 2-9, which would be the worst record in RMU football history.