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November 14, 2011

RMU looks to play spoiler against Duquesne

The way Brad Banas sees it, Robert Morris isn't 2-8. Not this week.

This is the only time, and the only opponent, where a record truly shouldn't matter. This is Duquesne week.

"This is our last game. Everyone's going to have to come in at the beginning of the week and put the whole season aside and just say we're playing one football game. That's all we're given," Banas said. "It's not like last year where we had the playoffs when we're playing Bryant. There's no thinking ahead."

There's more than just pride on the line against a crosstown rival, too. There's a chance to seriously spoil Duquesne's hopes for their first Northeast Conference championship. Albany controls the process, but if the Danes lose and Duquesne wins, the Dukes are in. A win also holds out the slight chance that Duquesne grabs an at-large berth for the FCS playoffs.

But a loss? A loss ends their season for sure.

"Who doesn't want to be spoiler? And out of anybody, it's Duquesne," Banas said. "We wouldn't want it any other way, whether we didn't win a game this year or we were fighting Duquesne for the championship. We wouldn't want it any other way to play Duquesne at the end of the year."

It won't be an easy task. Robert Morris hasn't won at Rooney Field since 1996, a five game win streak for the Dukes. Duquesne has a balanced offense, too, something that's given Robert Morris considerable trouble this year. Sean Patterson is dangerous as both a runner and a passer, and running back Larry McCoy is the type of back that typically gives Robert Morris fits.

They got a close example of that against Wagner with Dominique Williams, who gashed the normally good RMU run defense for 216 yards.

Banas said that the team has been good against the run, but they're letting big plays go. That happened twice against Wagner, with one Williams run resulting in a 56-yard touchdown and a 79-yard run leading to another score. Otherwise Wagner was quiet for long stretches.

Both Banas and head coach Joe Walton said that some of the issues are related to mental breakdowns, which still might speak to the youth and injuries on defense. Walton said that he sees talent every day in practice, but that mental mistakes have hindered the group the entire year, and it always seems to hit at the most inopportune time.

"I think they lose their focus during the game and make silly mistakes that cost you at times," Walton said. "To me, they're good enough if they practice well and they get themselves focused and ready to play the game. Then you've got to go out and do it. You can't let your mind wander during the game. That's all there is to it."

Who exactly will be available remains to be seen. Matt Layman hurt his hip against Wagner and if it's anything more than a hip pointer, that would mean third string quarterback Tyler Forbes would get his first career start.

Whoever plays on both sides of the ball have been issued a sort of challenge from Walton.

"I think what they have to do is get ready to play their crosstown rival," he said. "Play as hard as they can, get up for the game, and see if we can go over there and have some fun."

And as Banas explained, giving Duquesne all the Colonials can give is a matter of honor and pride, no matter what Robert Morris' record is.

"You can't let Duquesne walk into it," he said. "Albany wants us to play as hard as we can just like a good team should."

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

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