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October 22, 2011

Bryant blocks punt, thrusts dagger into RMU's chest

Another close game against Bryant turned into another heartbreaking loss for Robert Morris. Jordan Harris blocked a Tony Lamancusa punt with 1:16 left in a tie game, and Jordan Brown scored with 32 seconds left to give Bryant a 34-27 win.

"We have to support each other. When the offense doesn't play well, the defense and special teams have to play well," defensive end Nolan Nearhoof said. "When we have a punt blocked like that, the defense has to stand up. We didn't stand up. We have to make a tough field goal happen."

Harris blew right through the line to block the punt, making it unclear as to where the breakdown in coverage occurred.

"I have no idea until we look at the tape after the game, but they sure got a lot of pressure, wherever it came from," head coach Joe Walton said. "Special teams is a big part of the game and when they let you down, it's tough to overcome. The whole thing was a mess."

Brown's touchdown was his second of the day. He also scored the first touchdown of the game just 82 seconds into the contest, going 49 yards on the second play from scrimmage to give Bryant an early lead.

But Robert Morris led for much of the game, building a 10-6 lead on a Greg Langer field goal and Shadrae King touchdown, and taking a 20-13 lead into halftime on another Langer field goal and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Coleman.

"We were okay as long as we were able to throw short passes and we could run the ball," Walton said.

The running game struggled in the second half, and with it went the Robert Morris offense. Deontae Howard had seven carries for 31 yards in the second half, Justin Brooks carried three times for eight yards in the second half and Jeff Sinclair had just 10 of his 72 rushing yards in the first half. Much of that was because Sinclair, untouched in the first half, was sacked four times in the second half. Sinclair was 20-of-42 for three touchdowns and an interception.

"He didn't start off real well, but I thought he came on and played well," Walton said. "He was under a lot of pressure. I don't care who the quarterback is, when you get that kind of pressure on them, they're going to become ordinary."

Sinclair tried to be extraordinary, giving Robert Morris a 27-20 lead with 6:41 to go in the game on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jamie Cobb. But Bryant responded, not with Jordan Brown, but the other player who burned them throughout the afternoon. Tight end Matt Tracey gave the Colonials fits, and he caught a 13-yard touchdown from Mike Croce to tie the game up with 3:16 left.

Tracey caught eight passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

"I think the shortest answer I can give you is we didn't cover him," Walton said. "We just let him run around uncovered like nobody was on him. (Croce) made some nice throws, too."

Croce was 20-of-28 for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Robert Morris sacked him four times, but they didn't force a turnover for the second straight week.

In the end, Bryant's the one 5-3, 3-2 in the Northeast Conference while Robert Morris dropped to 2-5, 2-2 in the NEC and 0-4 all-time against Bryant.

"I don't think it's anything specific. Every game we've played them has been close, we just haven't gotten over the hump," Walton said. "We have at times run the ball against them. We've at times thrown the ball well against them. And sometimes we don't."

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

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