Duquesne (2-2 / 1-1) vs. Robert Morris (1-4 / 0-2)
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 at Noon
Joe Walton Stadium (3,000) - Moon Township, Pa.
The Robert Morris University football team returns to Joe Walton Stadium Saturday looking to snap a four-game losing streak when it hosts crosstown rival Duquesne for a Noon game that will be televised live on FSN Pittsburgh. The Colonials are coming off a 31-28 loss @ Sacred Heart (10/4) and dating back to the 2007 campaign, six of RMU's last eight losses have been decided by eight points or less. Robert Morris has been led in recent weeks by sophomore halfback Myles Russ, who has accumulated 331 yards rushing in the last two games on 41 attempts, an average of 8.1 yards per carry. The Colonials take to the road for back-to-back games after Saturday's tilt with Dukes, visiting future NEC member Bryant Saturday, Oct. 18, and Wagner Saturday, Oct. 25.
Quick Stat of the Afternoon
The Robert Morris offense has seemingly found a groove in recent weeks with the emergence of sophomore halfback Myles Russ as well as a continued presence through the air thanks to senior quarterback Erik Cwalinski. The Colonials enter their game with Duquesne Saturday leading the Northeast Conference in total offense average per play. Through five games this season, the Colonials have compiled 736 yards rushing and 1,245 yards passing for 1,981 total yards on 312 snaps, an average of 6.3 yards per play that is tops in the league ahead of Sacred Heart (6.2) and Duquesne (6.0). RMU's average of 396.2 yards of total offense ranks second in circuit.
Duquesne and Robert Morris will meet for the 10th time Saturday, with the Dukes holding an edge of 5-4 in the all-time series. The Dukes garnered a 17-14 victory over the Colonials in last year's contest @ Rooney Field (10/20/07).
All-Time Series vs. Duquesne
Duquesne Leads, 5-4
1994 (W, 28-6), Home
1995 (W, 38-20), Away
1996 (W, 28-26), Away *
1998 (L, 22-24), Away
2003 (L, 28-33), Away
2004 (W, 34-14), Home
2005 (L, 12-23), Away
2006 (L, 7-27), Home
2007 (L, 14-17), Away
* ECAC Bowl
@ Moon Township: 2-1
@ Pittsburgh: 2-4
Duquesne Series Quick Outs
Saturday's contest marks the first time the Colonials and Dukes will square off as conference opponents ... Duquesne is in its first season an associate member of the Northeast Conference ... Four of the nine meetings between Robert Morris and Duquesne have been decided by five points or less ... The Dukes have won five of the last six meetings between the two clubs after RMU won three straight from 1994 to 1996 ... Duquesne garnered a 27-7 win over RMU in the only previous meeting at Joe Walton Stadium (9/9/06) ... In last year's contest @ Rooney Field halfback Myles Russ recorded his first career 100-yard rushing game with 116 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run, on a career-high 25 attempts ... Safety Michael Landers recorded a career-high 14 tackles in last year's contest.
Head Coach Joe Walton (15th Season; Pittsburgh '57)
If there has been one constant associated with Robert Morris University football through the program's first 15 years, it has been Joe Walton. He was named head coach on July 27, 1993. He started the program from scratch, including everything from hiring assistant coaches to purchasing equipment to recruiting student-athletes. His fingerprints are all over the program, and to prove that, the University named its on-campus football stadium in his honor. Joe Walton Stadium hosted its first football game in 2005 to rousing success, as the Colonials defeated Butler, 49-13, on Sept. 17, 2005.
"I've said this many times before, and I mean it when I say that this situation is one of the best things that has happened to me in my life," Walton said. "It happened at the right time. Before this position became available, I felt I was too young to quit coaching, but I wasn't anxious to get back into pro football. This situation was the perfect opportunity for me to continue to do what I like to do, and I've loved every minute of it."
Under Walton's tutelage, the Colonials have claimed five Northeast Conference titles and a pair of mid-major national crowns in the program's first 14 years of existence. Robert Morris is one of just two programs to claim a pair of victories in the ECAC Bowl, having won it in back-to-back seasons in 1996 and 1997. The success has done nothing to dampen Walton's enthusiasm for coaching football at Robert Morris, and with him on the sideline RMU wins almost 60 percent of the time.
Walton is RMU's only head coach ever, and he is 86-59-1 (all at Robert Morris) at the collegiate level (.592). Walton was the head coach of the New York Jets from 1983-89, when he went 53-57-1 (.482). Also included among Walton's 35 NFL seasons is two (1990-91) as offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A two-time All-America tight end at Pittsburgh, Walton played seven years in the NFL with the Washington Redskins and New York Giants.
Sacred Heart Game Notes
Robert Morris fell to 0-2 in the Northeast Conference for the first time in school history with the setback ... Thanks to the win the Pioneers took a 6-5 lead in the all-time series ... In four career games against Sacred Heart quarterback Erik Cwalinski completed 59.3 percent (67-for-113) of his passes for 1,057 yards, eight touchdowns and three picks ... The Colonials recorded a season-high 23 first downs, while Sacred Heart also moved the chains 23 times ... Robert Morris also posted a season-high 441 yards of total offense while yielding 378 total yards to the Pioneers ... The Colonials were penalized 14 times for 134 yards in the loss ... Sacred Heart held a 31:35 to 28:25 edge in time of possession, the fourth straight game RMU has held the ball less than its opponent ... For the second consecutive game RMU did not record a sack ... Robert Morris was 5-for-11 (45.5 percent) on third down ... Nick Schirtzinger averaged 41.3 yards on three punts, including a long of 55 and one placed inside the Pioneer 20-yard line ... James O'Quinn finished with a team-high 163 all-purpose yards ... Cwalinski (offense) and linebackers Adam Lawrence (defense) and Ryan Nearhoof (special teams) served as game captains.
I Can See for Myles and Myles
Sophomore Myles Russ has blossomed into a feature back for the Colonials in just his second season, as he enters Saturday's game against Duquesne coming off his second straight 100-yard rushing performance thanks to 126 yards on 16 attempts @ Sacred Heart (10/4), an average of 7.9 yards per carry. It marks the first time in his young career Russ has posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, and his season average of 124.8 yards rushing per contest ranks fifth in the Northeast Conference and ninth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
- Consider This ...
Over a quarter (25.5 percent) of the time that sophomore halfback Myles Russ has touched the ball on first down, he's turned that into another first down for Robert Morris. Russ has carried the ball 51 times on first down through the first five games of the 2008 campaign for the Colonials, and on 11 of those occasions he has moved the chains for RMU. On first down Russ is averaging 6.7 yards per rush.
The success that Myles Russ has had on first down running the ball shouldn't come as a surprise. In all, the sophomore halfback has run the ball 88 times this season, posting either a first down or a touchdown on 25 of those instances. That equates to a success rate of 28.4 percent. Russ has had most of his success on second down, when he's carried the ball 30 times for an average of 8.4 yards a rush and owns both of his rushing touchdowns.
By Land or By Sea
Safety Michael Landers has proven to be a consistent presence in the secondary for Robert Morris. The junior enters Saturday's game against Duquesne coming off a 10-tackle performance @ Sacred Heart (10/4), his second straight double-digit tackle game and fourth of his career. Landers also recorded his third interception of the season against the Pioneers, which is tied for the Northeast Conference lead with Sacred Heart's Andre Isla.
Robert Morris has done an about face when reaching the red zone the last two games, having its most productive stretch of the 2008 campaign. Over the last two contests the Colonials are 7-for-8 when reaching the 20-yard line of their opponent, putting touchdowns on the board each time. On the season RMU has improved to 11-for-18 in the red zone, a success rate of 61.1 percent.
Not only has Robert Morris converted when reaching the red zone over the last pair of games, the offense has put together sustained drives throughout. After only posting two scoring drives of longer than 70 yards through the first three games of the 2008 campaign, the Colonials have finished with seven over the last two contests, including an 86-yard drive that was capped by an 11-yard run from sophomore halfback Myles Russ against Monmouth (9/27) and an 86-yard drive that was capped by a five-yard touchdown run from senior fullback Karey Murray @ Sacred Heart (10/4). The 86-yard touchdown drive is the longest for Robert Morris so far in 2008.
Senior fullback Jesse Kastelic may only own five carries through five games so far in 2008, but when he's touched the ball he's produced. On three of Kastelic's five runs he's reached the end zone, and along with freshman James O'Quinn leads the Colonials in scoring with 18 points. Kastelic also has been a force on special teams, as he leads the Colonials with seven tackles on either kickoff or punt returns.
Senior quarterback Erik Cwalinski became the fourth quarterback in school history to eclipse 5,000 career passing yards earlier this season, and after throwing for 260 yards @ Sacred Heart (10/4) he moved into third place all-time at Robert Morris with 5,803 career passing yards. Cwalinski needs just 97 yards to move past former Wagner quarterback John Sciarra (2004-05) into fifth place in the Northeast Conference annals, while his 16 career 200-yard passing games leaves him one shy of the RMU school record of 17 established by former quarterback Drew Geyer (2002-05).
Green Flowers in the Kingdom
With senior split end Sherrod Evers missing the past two games with an ankle injury, senior quarterback Erik Cwalinski has needed other options for his aerial attack. Stepping up for the Colonials have been a pair of tight ends in senior Regis Flowers and freshman Shadrae King as well as sophomore wide receiver T.J. Green. Over the last two games, Flowers and King have combined for 11 catches for 168 yards (15.3 yards per reception) and three touchdowns. King has hauled in touchdown catches each of the last two games and ranks second on the club with an average of 20.5 yards per reception. Green, meanwhile, established career highs in both receptions (7) and receiving yards (90) @ Sacred Heart (10/4).
The Go-To Guy
While other targets have stepped up for RMU in the absence of senior split end Sherrod Evers, freshman flanker James O'Quinn continues to be a reliable target for senior quarterback Erik Cwalinski. O'Quinn enters Saturday's game against Duquesne averaging 22.2 yards per reception, a total that leads the Northeast Conference. Of O'Quinn's 16 receptions so far in 2008, 14 have gone for either a first down or touchdown for the Colonials.
If Robert Morris is to earn its first Northeast Conference victory of the 2008 campaign and snap a four-game slide Saturday against Duquesne, the Colonials will need to cut back on penalties. RMU has been whistled for 43 infractions thus far on the 2008 campaign, the highest total in the league. Robert Morris averages 96.4 yards in penalties per game, which also ranks last in the NEC.
Alexander the Great
Sophomore linebacker Alex DiMichele has been all over the field in RMU's first five games of the 2008 season. The transfer from Temple has accumulated 58 tackles thus far, an average of 11.6 stops per contest that ranks second in the Northeast Conference and eighth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Against Bucknell (9/13), DiMichele recorded a game-high 19 tackles, which is tied for the third highest single-game total in school history.