It must be something about Robert Morris football and non-noon home games.
"Late games are nice cause you get to sleep in a little bit, you don't have to wake up at seven o'clock in the morning,"? quarterback Jeff Sinclair said.
Robert Morris defeated the Duquesne Dukes 17-13 under the light at Joe Walton stadium. The Robert Morris defense stepped up to the moment, halting one of the NEC's top running backs in Larry McCoy to 97 yards on 31 carries, a 3.1 average. The Robert Morris defense also avoided giving up the big play, something that has haunted them all season. Much like redshirt senior tight end Paul Evans said earlier in the week, coach Joe Walton feels like it starts on the practice field.
"We worked hard all week. One of the things when you have a young team, which we have, they got to learn how to practice," he said. "They have to learn how to get mature in what they're doing. I mean, they'll go out and play hard on Saturday, they always do, but they have to prepare properly, and that's my fault."
Robert Morris (3-6, 2-4) set the tone early when Adrian Perez blocked Duquesne's first punt attempt, erasing the thoughts of past special team woes and putting the offense in great field position to score. Five plays later, Sinclair took a designed bootleg off the right tackle for twelve yards and a touchdown.
"They (the offensive line) did a tremendous job tonight. I was so calm in the pocket,"? said Sinclair. "Usually I have happy feet but today I was standing back there longer and it was unbelievable."
Sinclair finished 11-of-17 for 146 yards and one touchdown through the air, and was the second leading rusher with seven carries for 60 yards and a touchdown. Evan Taylor was the leading rusher with 62 yards on 17 carries. Again, Taylor was held without a touchdown.
The Colonials game plan seemed conservative to start off. On the defensive side, the Dukes (5-4, 3-3) started off hot on third downs, taking advantage of the soft secondary coverage and allowing drives to keep going which eventually led to Duquesne's first score late in the first quarter. On offense, the game plan seemed content with quick, intermediate passes and running the football; until the go-ahead drive.
Robert Morris took the ball down by three with 14:52 left in the game. Three minutes later, the Colonials took the lead.
Sinclair found wide receiver Donte Jeter (five receptions, 66 yards) for a 26 yards into Duquesne territory. Jeter had to leave the game the next play after taking a big hit after the catch, but it didn't matter because Sinclair found wide out Duane Mitchell for 41 yards and a touchdown.
"We knew that at halftime we could get that out and go and it just worked out perfect. I just felt like it was time and we could get that score," Walton said.
"We thought we could get them on seven and go, which is that corner route and then he goes. The safety started flying up like he was going to blitz,"? Sinclair said. "I knew we were going to get one-on-one with the corner out there so I just threw it up to make a play, and we got a touchdown, that was great."
Duquesne had a chance late. After getting the ball on their own 23 with 8:07 remaining, Duquesne marched down the field and had first and goal at the RMU six. Three pass plays and one run lay later, Robert Morris had control of the game.
"Everyone on defense buckled down and things happen when we do things right,"? said linebacker Mike Cook.
Sinclair said it got him 'fired up' watching the defense get the goalline stand they needed to win and he 'salutes' the defense. Overall, he said, it feels good to get a win, especially against a rival.
"They played their (butts) off and that's a great thing," said Walton.
Next week, Robert Morris looks to get their first road game of the year. Despite their home success, Robert Morris has not won on the road this year. Cook thinks that the team needs more discipline and focus to win on the road.
"We just want to finish strong for guys like Nolan Nearhoof and Jeff and send them out
right,"? Cook said.