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October 15, 2011

Game Day: RMU at Albany

Robert Morris (2-3, 2-0 NEC) at Albany (3-2, 2-0 NEC)

Kickoff: 1:00 EST

Radio and TV: WPIT 730 AM and wpitam.com

Live Stats : Live stats available on Albany's site.

Last Meeting: 38-0 Robert Morris

The Skinny: It's only the third conference game of the season for both clubs, but it could go a long way to deciding the Northeast Conference champion. These are the only two undefeated teams left in the conference. The two must balance the desire - and need - to win this game with being conscious that the season will not be decided in mid-October.

Robert Morris can use some recent memories to try and fuel their desire to stay on an even keel. They lost to Bryant last year when they relaxed after clinching the FCS playoff berth over Central Connecticut State.

"After we beat Central, we went up to Bryant and we weren't focused at all," linebacker Jon Krepps said. "It's way too early to tell who's going to win this conference. We're all worried about Albany right now. That's all we're thinking about."

That means Robert Morris has spent plenty of time this week thinking about Albany's running game. The Great Danes' ground game is back in force after scuffling a bit following the graduation of the excellent David McCarty. Albany leads the conference in scoring, and they'll provide Robert Morris' strongest test yet.

"They love to run the zone read, so we've been game-planning that all week. And then they take the zone read and take it a triple-option, almost," Krepps said. "Our game plans each week are phenomenal. They're putting us in the best possible position every single play. It's coming back to me and (Kyle Cooper) to get the right checks in. If we get lined up, it's tough to beat our defense."

While Albany is second in the conference in rushing - actually first in passing - it's been their running game of late that's propelled them to three straight wins. Robert Morris' pass defense will no doubt be tested by the Danes' passing game, but as has always been the case in this evenly split rivalry game, the ground game will likely determine the result. Robert Morris' run defense is first in the conference, but co-defensive coordinator Scott Farison said numbers don't matter. Results do.

"We still did poorly in spots against St. Francis and we have to get that corrected," Farison said.

Robert Morris will need it to be correct against Albany.

Three Keys:

1. Keep the Turnovers Rolling - Robert Morris' defense has become opportunistic in the last two games, and it's helped get the offense on track. They'll need to take advantage of whatever chances they get against Albany, limiting their own stay on the field while keeping the Robert Morris offense going.

2. Who Wants To Be a Feature Back? - Myles Russ was a huge reason the Colonials whipped Albany 38-0 last year. Robert Morris could use a breakout game by one of their backs on Saturday. It might be Deontae Howard. Duane Mitchell started the season as the No. 1 but soon gave way to Justin Brooks. But Brooks had an off-game last week against St. Francis, while the light has started to go on for Howard. He and William Quarles each had more carries than Brooks, and it's likely Howard gets a long look again this weekend. Whether it's him or someone else, RMU needs a big game from the backs.

3. Limit the Returns - Robert Morris cannot give Albany a short field. They managed to handle it against St. Francis, but a short field will be the death of the Colonials if the kick coverage unit isn't up to par. It spreads from Greg Langer on down to the coverage guys. Langer's kickoffs need to be better - higher and deeper - while the tackling and ability to shed blockers needs to improve.

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