The Colonials are coming off a 20-13 loss to Bryant (9/26) to fall to 0-4 for the first time in school history. RMU has lost its first four games of the 2009 campaign by a combined 18 points, and dating back to the start of the 2007 season, 10 of the program's last 16 losses have been by eight points or less.
Robert Morris enters Saturday's game against the Dukes ranked second in the NEC in scoring defense (20.2 ppg) and total defense (288.8 ypg). The Colonials will continue their two-game road trip after their contest with the Dukes Saturday by visiting New Britain, Conn., to square off with Central Connecticut State Saturday, Oct. 10, at Arute Field in a Noon kickoff.
Quick Stat of the Afternoon
If Robert Morris is to post its first victory of the season Saturday @ Duquesne, the offense will need to improve its showing on third down. In its recently completed two-game homestand, the Colonials converted just four of their 29 chances (13.8%) on third down. RMU enters Saturday's game against the Dukes ranked ninth in the Northeast Conference in third-down conversions at 23.8 percent (15-for-63). On the flipside, the Colonial defense has done a solid job in holding its opponents in check on third down. Robert Morris has held its first four opponents to a success rate of just 25.9 percent (15-for-58) on third down, which ranks third in the NEC.
Duquesne and Robert Morris will meet for the 11th time Saturday, with the all-time series tied, 5-5. The Colonials earned a 34-27 victory over the Dukes in last year's contest at Joe Walton Stadium (10/11/08) that snapped a three-game losing streak for RMU in the series.
All-Time Series vs. Duquesne
Series Tied, 5-5
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
2008 (W, 34-27), Home
* ECAC Bowl
@ Moon Township: 3-1
@ Pittsburgh: 2-4
Duquesne Series Quick Outs
Saturday's contest marks just the second time the Colonials and Dukes will square off as conference opponents ... Duquesne is in its second season as an associate member of the Northeast Conference ... Five of the 10 meetings between Robert Morris and Duquesne have been decided by seven points or less ... Junior halfback Myles Russ established a new RMU single-game record for rushing attempts with 37 in last year's meeting at Joe Walton Stadium (10/11/08), compiling a career-high 246 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the win ... The 246 yards rushing for Russ last season is the third highest single-game mark in school history ... In two career games against Duquesne, Russ has compiled 362 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 62 carries (5.8 ypc).
Head Coach Joe Walton (16th Season, Pittsburgh '57)
If there has been one constant associated with Robert Morris University football through the program's first 16 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 15 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 90-65-1 (all at Robert Morris) at the collegiate level (.580). 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.
Bryant Game Notes
RMU fell to 0-2 all-time against Bryant ... The two teams combined for 16 penalties that totaled 165 yards ... The Colonials finished with seven penalties for 71 yards and enter Saturday's game @ Duquesne the most penalized team in the Northeast Conference (28 penalties for 290 yards, an average of 72.5 yards per game) ... Bryant compiled 344 yards of total offense compared to 167 for Robert Morris ... Bryant won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 35:31 compared to 24:29 for the Colonials ... In the second half, the Bulldogs possessed the ball for 21:14 compared to 8:46 for RMU ... Bryant finished just 2-for-15 on third down but was 3-for-4 in converting opportunities on fourth down ... Senior quarterback Camdin Crouse finished 5-for-16 passing for 55 yards and two interceptions before going down with an elbow injury in the fourth quarter.
Robert Morris enters Saturday's game with four Colonials ranked in the top in the Northeast Conference for tackles. Alex DiMichele leads the NEC in both tackles (50) and tackles per game (12.50), and also ranking in the top 10 from RMU are junior linebacker Elias Navarro, senior safety Michael Landers and senior linebacker Ian Milanak. Navarro ranks third in the NEC with an average of 9.5 tackles per game, while Landers is tied for fifth with an average of 9.2 stops per contest. Milanak is tied for 10th with Scott Lewis of Saint Francis (Pa.) with an average of 8.5 tackles per game.
The Race Is On
Thanks to 50 tackles through the first four games of the 2009 campaign, junior linebacker Alex DiMichele has already racked up 166 career stops in 14 games as a Colonial. Just 34 tackles shy of 200 for his career, DiMichele is looking to become the fastest player in school history to reach the threshold. RMU's all-time leader for career takedowns and the fastest to reach 200 career stops, former linebacker James Noel (2002-05), reached the mark in his 19th game.
Robert Morris continues to get good pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the early portion of the 2009 campaign, as the Colonials have tallied 12 sacks through four games. That total is good enough to top the Northeast Conference, and leading the way individually has been junior linebacker Alex DiMichele, who owns three sacks. RMU is on pace to finish the 2009 campaign with 33 sacks, which would be one short of the school record of 34, which was set in 2006.
At A Loss For Words
While RMU's pressure of the quarterback has resulted in 12 sacks and seven quarterback hurries so far in 2009, the Colonials are excelling at getting in the backfield, as well. Robert Morris owns 39 tackles for losses that have totaled 144 yards, an average of 9.75 per game that ranks third in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Individually, the leader has been senior linebacker Ian Milanak, who has recorded eight and-a-half tackles for losses that have totaled 34 yards, including a pair of sacks. Milanak's average of 2.13 tackles for loss per game ranks tied for second in the FCS with Grant Hunter of Butler entering Saturday's game @ Duquesne.
Moving, Just Keep Moving
With the hot start for wide receiver Sherrod Evers to the 2009 campaign, the redshirt senior has bolted up the career charts for both receptions and receiving yards. Evers entered the season ranked 19th all-time at RMU for career catches, but thanks to 21 receptions through the first four games, his career total of 68 now ranks seventh all-time. Evers also ranked 14th entering 2009 in career receiving yards with 740, but he enters Saturday's game @ Duquesne with 1,054, just the ninth receiver in school history to eclipse 1,000 career receiving yards and ranking eighth all-time.
I See Red
A year after leading the Northeast Conference in red zone defense, Robert Morris is again shutting down its opponents once it gets inside the Colonial 20-yard line. In the first four games of the season, RMU's opponents have combined to reach the red zone 16 times, with RMU allowing just nine scores. That 56.2 percent success rate leads the NEC. In 2008, Robert Morris allowed its opponents to score just 67.5 percent (27-of-40) of the time inside its own 20-yard line.
Return To Sender
Sophomore Anthony Coleman has done a solid job for Robert Morris on special teams in the early portion of the 2009 campaign, as the wide receiver racked up 126 all-purpose yards in RMU's 2009 NEC opener against Bryant (9/26). While finishing with just one catch for three yards against the Bulldogs from his wide receiver position, Coleman made his mark at return specialist, compiling 123 yards on three kickoff and four punt returns. He returned one punt 26 yards in the fourth quarter against Bryant, then followed with a 37-yard punt return that set up the Colonial offense at the 22-yard line of the Bulldogs. Through the first four games of the 2009 season, Coleman has averaged 19.71 yards on seven punt returns, which ranks sixth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).