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David Coulson

Central Connecticut State @ Robert Morris

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MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. When it was announced that the Northeast Conference would receive its first automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Football Championship in 2010, few people probably expected that the pivotal game in the NEC title race would occur here on the Robert Morris University campus.

But on a cold, Saturday afternoon, with snow clouds dangling over the hillsides of this Pittsburgh suburb, Robert Morris can earn a share of the NEC crown and the league's first auto bid to the playoffs with a victory over Central Connecticut State in this battle of conference unbeatens.

CCSU (6-2 overall, 5-0 in the NEC) was expected to be in the chase for an NCAA berth, coming off a league title and a trip to the Gridiron Classic (a 28-23 loss at Pioneer Football League champion Butler) last year.

But Robert Morris (7-1, 6-0) hadn't won an NEC title in 10 years and had won seven games just once during that drought (7-4 in 2006).

Since losing its opening game at Dayton (28-14), the Joe Walton-coached Colonials have won seven straight, including a stunning 30-23 victory over a ranked opponent in Liberty on Sept. 18.

A win today gives RMU the auto bid, while a victory by CCSU would put the Blue Devils in the driver's seat with two league games remaining at Monmouth next weekend and at home against St. Francis in two weeks.

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Updated 11-06-2010 at 02:39 PM by dcoulson

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  1. dcoulson's Avatar
    It didn't take Robert Morris long to strike in this title game. A nice 30-yard kickoff return by Anthony Coleman and runs of 15 yards by quarterback Jeff Sinclair and 20 yards by running back Myles Russ on the zone read play set up the Colonials quickly.

    Sinclair finished the drive with a 20-yard TD strike to T.J. Greeen in the corner of the end zone to make it 7-0 less than two minutes in.

    CCSU came back with a methodical drive of its own, but had to settle for Joe Izzo's 29-yard field goal at the 8:27 mark to trim the lead to 7-3.

    Another strong Coleman return and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Blue Devils put RMU in scoring position again and a one-handed catch by Green keyed another Sinclair scoring connection of 14 yards to Shadrae King on a post pattern as the Colonials built their lead to 14-3 with 7:52 remaining in the first quarter.
  2. dcoulson's Avatar
    Central Connecticut State struck right back to move the ball down the field and scored its first touchdown on an eight-yard pass from Gunner Jesperson to Chris Tolbert. On the scoring play, Jespersen faked a handoff to Tolbert on an outside zone read and then Tolbert ran a wheel route to beat the defense to the end zone. Jesperson responded with a perfect strike for the TD.

    It is 14-10 Robert Morris with 5:14 remaining in the initial quarter.
    Updated 11-06-2010 at 01:02 PM by dcoulson
  3. dcoulson's Avatar
    Robert Morris pinned CCSU at the one with a nice punt and coverage and Alex DiMichele recovered a fumble for the Colonials on the next play.

    Jeff Link powered in from the one on the next play to give RMU a 21-10 lead with 2:01 on the first period clock.
  4. dcoulson's Avatar
    Robert Morris has shown why it is one of the top scoring teams in FCS. The Colonials went to ball control, mixing the run and pass on a 70-yard drive. Raphael Johnson capped it off with a two-yard burst to make it 28-10 with 6:05 left in the second period.

    Sophomore quarterback Jeff Sinclair showed his ability as a runner and a passer during this drive, conoverting several third downs to keep the Colonials in business.
    Updated 11-06-2010 at 12:24 PM by dcoulson
  5. dcoulson's Avatar
    On the next play from scrimmage Gunnar Jespersen fired a lazar to Josue Paul for a 60-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-17 with 5:57 left before the half.
    Updated 11-06-2010 at 01:03 PM by dcoulson
  6. dcoulson's Avatar
    Robert Morris moved back into CCSU territory with a first down at the 36, but the Blue Devils finally showed some defense to hold the Colonials with two and a half minutes left in the half. RMU downed another punt deep in CCSU territory at the four.
  7. dcoulson's Avatar
    It was near disaster for RMU when it tried to run out the clock in the final minute of the first half. Myles Russ fumbled at the Colonial 35 with 32 seconds left, but Robert Morris recovered to maintain possession and send the game to the intermission with the Colonials leading, 28-17.
  8. dcoulson's Avatar
    Some first half stats:

    RMU has 142 yards on the ground and 103 through the air for 245 yards of total offense. CCSU has just 18 rushing yards, but 183 in the air for 201 total.

    Sinclair is 7-of-13 for 103 yards and two TDs for the Colonials, while Jespersen is 10-of-13 for 183 yards and two TDs for the Blue Devils. Russ has 16 carries for 99 yards for RMU and Josue Paul has hauled in three catches for 88 yards and a 60-yard TD for CCSU.
  9. dcoulson's Avatar
    CCSU went three and out after taking the second half kickoff, punting the ball back to Robert Morris at the Colonial 18.
  10. dcoulson's Avatar
    Jeff Sinclair picked up a first down with a nice naked bootleg to set up Myles Russ for a 44-yard touchdown scamper. The run put Russ over the 4,000-yard rushing mark. Russ is the all-time-leading rusher in RMU history. Russ has 155 yards rushing today and picked up his 19th 100-yard rushing performance to tie the school record. The Colonials lead 35-17 with 10:35 left in the third period.
    Updated 11-06-2010 at 03:06 PM by dcoulson
  11. dcoulson's Avatar
    On fourth and one from the CCSU 43, the Blue Devils went back to coach Jeff McInerney's roots, running the pitch option — ala Georgia Southern — to pick up a first down. But on the next play, a hit by Michael Landers sent the ball flying through the air, where Michael Richards recovered for Robert Morris with under five minutes left in the third period.
  12. dcoulson's Avatar
    Robert Morris used the direct snap on fourth down and short to pull off a fake punt for a first down at the CCSU 33. Sinclair then lofted a soft pass to Green for first and goal at the 10.
  13. dcoulson's Avatar
    Jeff Link scored his second TD of the day on a dive play to put Robert Morris ahead 42-17 with 48 seconds left in the third period. CCSU has dug itself a hole that will be tough to shovel out of in the final period, trailing by 25 points.
  14. dcoulson's Avatar
    Michael Landers intercepted a Gunnar Jespersen pass on the next series near midfield, but a roughing the passer penalty negated the play and gave CCSU a first down.
  15. dcoulson's Avatar
    As we head to the fourth quarter, it's trivia time. What history buff out there can tell me who Robert Morris was?
  16. dcoulson's Avatar
    CCSU used the option to great effect to drive the ball down the field in the fourth period, including the used of an inverted shotgun/wishbone formation inside the RMU 10. On fourth and goal, Jespersen scored on an off-tackle keeper for the TD with 11 minutes remaining to cut the Robert Morris lead to 42-24.
  17. dcoulson's Avatar
    With Robert Morris expecting an onside kick, CCSU went with a medium-deep kickoff. Coleman ruined the strategy with a return to midfield.
  18. dcoulson's Avatar
    Myles Russ is closing in on 200 yards rushing. He has 24 carries for 177 yards thus far. Robert Morris has 276 yards on the ground and counting as it threatens to score again.
  19. dcoulson's Avatar
    Joe Walton is well known for his head coaching stint with the New York Jets and is one of the few coaches around to coach in a stadium named for him. But this soon-to-be 75-year-old is still impressing people with his offensive schemes. It will be interesting to see how he does, preparing his team for the playoffs.
  20. dcoulson's Avatar
    RMU punter Nick Schirtzinger pinned CCSU inside the five for the third time of the day, but Jesperson struck back for another pass completion over over 60 yards to Josue Paul to keep Blue Devil hopes alive.
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