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October 20, 2012Tweet Follow @c_cappella
The weather for Saturday's noon match-up of Robert Morris and Central Connecticut State University seemed to accurately describe both teams seasons thus far: ugly.
The windy, rainy conditions didn't seem to deter both teams of their game plans, however. The Blue Devils (1-6, 1-3), with their option attack, stayed committed to the running game throughout the day while the Colonials (2-5, 1-3) stayed balanced, letting Evan Taylor lead the way running and open up options for quarterback Jeff Sinclair deep down-field, something wide receiver Donte Jeter said was part of the game-plan.
"We knew we had a couple deep shots and to beat them if they were in man coverage," Jeter said.
Jeter had two deep touchdown receptions, his first being a 57-yard catch with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter to give Robert Morris a 23-14 lead. The second, a 27-yard reception with 5:41 left in the game, tied the game at 31.
"The first one, I was able to catch them in man coverage and got them," he said. "And the second one was the same thing. I was just glad Jeff looked and we saw it."
Jeter's four receptions for 103 yards was only a quarter of the 412 total yards from the game. Despite the big offensive numbers, RMU found themselves down eight with just six minutes remaining. The Blue Devils pounded the ball with sophomore running back Rob Hollomon (27 carries, 214 yards) and a dominating special teams. Hollomon had a 97 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to go along with a blocked punt and extra point for the rest of the unit. RMU also missed a 27-yard field goal and an extra point.
"We've got to work on our special teams, our special teams were bad. A kickoff return, punt blocked, a missed hold, just too many things, so we've got to get better at that," head coach Joe Walton said.
Walton did not know what to make of the rare bad special teams performance, but credited his offense and defense for their improvement this season and the team's ability to finish out the game.
"It's the first game we've finished in quite a while. We finished this ballgame," he said. "We have a tendency to say 'oh it's over' and today they didn't do that. They kept on going and kept on playing and we got the touchdown we needed."
The go-ahead touchdown came with 1:50 remaining in the game courtesy of a Deontae Howard two-yard run on third-and-goal. That six play drive was made possible because of a Marcelis Branch interception with 4:51 left in the game. Branch had a good overall game, with six tackles, one interception, and numerous pass break-ups, including one in the end zone as time expired.
"He's (Branch) going to be a very good player. He's a great athlete first and I think he's learning to play," Walton said.
Another unsung hero on the defensive side of the ball was redshirt sophomore linebacker Luke Mueller, who stepped up after another injury to the linebacker position. Mueller had eight tackles, including one for a loss. Despite being pressed into the game unexpectedly, Mueller said it didn't rattle him.
"I didn't have much notice I was getting in so I didn't have time to get nervous. I was just ready," he said.
Fellow linebacker Brad Banas was impressed with Mueller's composure and said that the key was to communicate with him and the rest of the defense to stay on the same page with everyone.
"I was just trying to read my keys and be in the right place to make a play," said Mueller.
Overall, it came down to the offense making plays, whether it was running back Evan Taylor, who had 20 caries for 134, or Sinclair, who bounced back from a bad interception late to put his team in position to win.
"The offensive line is clicking, and I feel like our offense as a whole is clicking too," Taylor said. "Jeff's making throws, receivers are making catches, and that's opening up the run game."
Rather than following the norm of past games and losing close games, Taylor and company were happy they finally pulled one out and got their first conference win.
"It felt great just get the monkey off the back," he said.
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