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October 19, 2013Over the course of his 20-year tenure at Robert Morris, Joe Walton has stressed the concept of being sound in all three phases of the game: Offense, defense and special teams.
Walton always stressed that mistakes in any facet of the game can lose the contest for a team. Robert Morris got a harsh reminder of that Saturday night against crosstown rival Duquesne.
Hunter Khaleghi couldn't connect on an extra point that would have tied the game, and it ended up being the difference, as Duquesne held off Robert Morris' comeback to top Robert Morris 21-20.
"That's a tough way to lose the game, missing an extra point," Walton said. "I couldn't see it. But on an extra point, there shouldn't be any doubt. There should be no question about an extra point. That's my feeling."
Robert Morris had opportunities to pull out the win after Khaleghi's missed conversion. But the Colonials turned the ball over on downs on their first attempt, and after getting the ball back with less than a minute to go, D.J. Pearson tried to lateral the ball to Deontae Howard on a designed trick play, only to have Duquesne come up with the football and seal the win.
"They played their hearts out, but that's the way sport is sometimes," Walton said. "The important thing is how we handle it and get back up off the floor."
Robert Morris took an early lead thanks to Paul Jones 4-yard touchdown run. That 7-0 edge held up through halftime, but Duquesne found life in the third quarter thanks to a series of miscues from RMU. Charles Lipp blocked a Tony Lamancusa punt for Duquesne's first points, courtesy of the safety. Then after the ensuing kickoff, Duquesne's excellent field position led to Austin Crimmins' 40-yard field goal and a 7-5 Robert Morris lead.
Just two plays after the field goal, Jones was sacked and stripped by Dorian Bell, setting the Dukes up with field position on the RMU 12-yard line. Dillon Buechel hit Gianni Carter on a 12-yard touchdown to give Duquesne it's first lead of the game.
The Dukes weren't done, as a fumble by Ryan Thermil near the end zone led to another safety - the second of the game - for Duquesne. And the ensuing possession led to Buechel's 26-yard touchdown pass to Devin Rahming for a 21-7 Duquesne lead.
"We came out flat in the third quarter. That's what hurt more than anything. And I don't know why we did," Walton said.
Buechel's touchdown pass also became a source of controversy. Robert Morris safety Andy Smigiera was blindsided by Duquesne receiver Chris King on the play on what looked like a helmet-to-helmet hit. Smigiera was injured on the play and ended up being taken to a local hospital for observation. He was released late Saturday night. Despite an emphasis on hits to the head, including a new emphasis on "targeting", there was no flag on the play. Walton and associate head coach John Banaszak were incensed by the lack of a call, and Walton still didn't seem satisfied afterward.
"They claimed that it wasn't helmet to helmet," Walton said. "But it sure looked like it from where we were sitting."
As frightening as the play was, it also served as a rallying point for Robert Morris. With the disastrous third quarter behind them, RMU rallied in the fourth. Howard capped a 7-play, 62-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 21-14. Then the defense stepped up, as D.J. Myers tallied his first career interception to halt Duquesne's next drive.
Jones promptly marched Robert Morris down the field, capping the drive with a 1-yard touchdown for his second touchdown of the day. But then Khaleghi missed the extra point, setting up the final few moments of the game.
Jones was 11-of-22 for 100 yards and ran for 41 yards. He was under duress most of the night and was sacked three times. Phil Peckich was the top back for Robert Morris, as the converted safety ran eight times for 41 yards. Howard chipped in 33 yards, while Thermil had 17. Duane Mitchell led RMU with 6 catches for 73 yards, while Mike Cook led the defense with a game-high 13 tackles.
Robert Morris travels to Wagner next weekend. For more coverage, including photos and an extensive look at the recruits who visited the game, check back with ColonialsCorner.com throughout the weekend.
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