November 5, 2011

Colonials lose Sinclair, fall to CCSU

The depth chart is getting thinner, and the losing streak is getting longer.

It's a bitter, painful combination for Robert Morris. The latest setback came in the form of a 31-24 loss to Central Connecticut State in New Britain. And the latest additions to the injury list are a who's who of top performers.

The most notable might be quarterback Jeff Sinclair, who left in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. Freshman Matt Layman took his place and did well, completing 12-of-16 passes for 163 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.

That included a 4-of-4 debut on his first drive just before halftime, as Layman found Jamie Cobb for a 14-yard touchdown and a 17-14 lead heading into the break.

"I think he's been practicing well all year. He's shown that he has the talent," head coach Joe Walton told NEC-TV. "There were some pretty good catches on that drive, too."

It was part of an above average first half for Robert Morris, although it came with another slow start. A special teams mistake gave Central Connecticut State the early 7-0 lead. After Robert Morris' offense struggled to get going, long snapper Luke Sweeney's snap to Tony Lamancusa bounced off the turf. Lamancusa couldn't bring it in, and Central Connecticut recovered at the Robert Morris nine yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Brian Fowler scored untouched for the 9-yard score and the 7-0 lead.

Robert Morris responded, as Sinclair engineered an 8-play, 80-yard drive that featured the traditional pass and run balance from the Colonials. Sinclair capped it off with a 7-yard touchdown run. After Robert Morris stopped CCSU, the Colonials scored on their next drive to take a 10-7 lead.

But that's also when they lost Sinclair. As Sinclair led a 9-play drive, the Colonials moved down to the CCSU 11-yard line. But on third down, Sinclair was sacked by Charles Williams. Williams hauled Sinclair down awkwardly by his left arm, buckling his leg and requiring Sinclair to be helped off the field by trainers. He suffered a left knee injury, had ice on the knee on the sideline, and did not return. Robert Morris got a field goal and a 10-7 lead out of the drive.

Central Connecticut issued their own response, as Gunnar Jesperson took the Blue Devils 63 yards in eight plays, tossing a 5-yard touchdown pass to David Sabilia to give CCSU a 14-10 lead with 1:24 left in the half.

Layman took over and struck quickly, using just four plays to find Cobb for the touchdown and the halftime lead.

Layman did well in the second half, but the Robert Morris offense began to sputter and stall. Central Connecticut State held the ball for almost 10 minutes in the third quarter. Antwan Smith helped preserve the 17-14 lead early in the quarter, picking off Jesperson in the end zone for his first interception of the season.

After a three-and-out by Robert Morris, Jesperson threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Raul DeBendendittis to make it 21-17 with 2:13 left in the third quarter. Another dead-in-the-water drive by Robert Morris and a quick response by Central Connecticut State made it 28-17 within the first minute of the fourth quarter.

Layman drove the Colonials down to the CCSU 21-yard line and had an open Shadrae King for a potential touchdown to close the gap, but Layman's ball was slightly underthrown. That allowed Tyrell Holmes to cut across the front of the end zone and make a diving interception.

Central Connecticut went on a 7:49 minute drive that ended in a field goal before Layman threw three quick passes - including a 27-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Paul Evans - for the final score of the game. An onside kick attempt by RMU was recovered by CCSU.

Anthony Coleman led Robert Morris with seven receptions for 87 yards. Deontae Howard had a season high 86 yards on 15 carries. Robert Morris allowed 279 yards rushing to Central Connecticut State.

Joining Sinclair on the injury list were DL Nolan Nearhoof, who missed time in the third quarter with an unmentioned injury; DL Sam Miller, who walked off gingerly in the second quarter; Cameron Chadwick, who battled through several injuries; Cobb, who was hobbled by recurring knee pain; and Brad Banas, who tried to play with a cast on his broken thumb but wasn't on the field as much as the game went on.

Robert Morris returns home to play Wagner on Saturday.

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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