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October 13, 2012

Bryant holds off Robert Morris 38-35

If it's not one thing, it's another for the Robert Morris football team.

The defense racked up six sacks, two interceptions - including one returned for a touchdown - but gave up 497 total yards of offense to Bryant as the Bulldogs dropped Robert Morris 38-35 in Smithfield, Rhode Island.

Robert Morris has yet to beat Bryant in the five years the Bulldogs have been part of the Northeast Conference.

Up 35-31 thanks to Brad Banas' 55-yard interception return, Robert Morris appeared poised to finally exorcise its demon. But Bryant methodically worked an 8-play, 65-yard drive in just 2:41, as Mike Westerhaus found Jordan Harris for a 16-yard touchdown.

Bryant pinned Robert Morris deep in its own territory on the ensuing kickoff, and a sack of Jeff Sinclair forced Robert Morris to punt from its own end zone. The punt gave Bryant excellent field position, and though the Bulldogs would ultimately be stopped on fourth-and-goal, the drive took 2:40 off the clock and left Robert Morris with just 51 seconds and no timeouts to go 98 yards for a winning touchdown.

Sinclair tried to engineer a late drive, but Bryant left nothing open downfield. The game ended when Paul Evans lateralled to William Quarles, only for Quarles to be brought down quickly at the RMU 44-yard line.

The two teams traded scores all night, as the defenses found ways to make splash plays while still allowing significant chunks of yards. Robert Morris struck first, as Sinclair fell into a rhythm early and led Robert Morris 80 yards for a first quarter score. His 13-yard touchdown pass to Duane Mitchell allowed Robert Morris to score first for just the second time all year.

But Bryant answered right back, something that would become a theme all day. Westerhaus had his own long drive, a 15-play, 75-yard monster that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Perry. Bryant added a 47-yard field goal early in the second quarter before using two big plays to pull ahead 16-7. Westerhaus completed a 22-yard pass to Ricardo McCray on third-and-17 to set up Jordan Brown's 43-yard touchdown run to pull Bryant in front by two scores.

Robert Morris finally found an answer, using six straight run plays before Sinclair found Mitchell for a 15-yard touchdown and make it 16-14 in favor of Bryant at the half. The Colonials then dodged a bullet to start the second half, as Sinclair's first down pass was intercepted, only for RMU to stiffen and force Bryant to miss a 27-yard field goal.

The Colonials took their first lead of the second half largely behind Evan Taylor. The redshirt sophomore picked up 56 yards on an 80-yard drive, while Sinclair also picked up a key 26-yard run. Sinclair capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

Just six plays later, though, Bryant took the lead back, as Westerhaus tossed a short pass to McCray and the back turned it into a 43-yard touchdown. The 24-21 lead didn't last long, though, as Robert Morris quickly went 90 yards downfield thanks to a 28-yard pass to Mitchell and 34-yard pass to Jeter. Fullback Nick Groat scored from five yards out to push Robert Morris back in front.

The Colonials just couldn't stop Bryant. Throughout the second half, Robert Morris forced one punt out of six Bryant drives. Westerhaus' 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Harris pushed Bryant back in front 31-28 to start the fourth quarter.

As Robert Morris' defense struggled to get off the field, the offense sputtered. After Robert Morris punted, Banas was able to haul in a tipped pass intended for Harris and rumble 55-yards for a 35-31 lead. But Westerhaus again engineered a touchdown drive, hitting Harris again, this time for 16 yards, to pull Bryant back in front.

Robert Morris went 3-and-out, punted from its own end zone, and the spiral down in the final sequence began.

Sinclair was 16-for-31 for 209 yards and 3 total touchdowns. He also added 44 yards on the ground. Taylor had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game, carrying 18 times for 105 yards. Mitchell, Jeter, Evans, and Quinton Pirl all had four catches, with Mitchell leading the quartet in yards with 72.

Nolan Nearhoof had three sacks to make him the program's all-time leader in the category. Freshman corner Brian Jones had his first career interception.

Robert Morris fell to 1-5, 0-3 in the NEC. They'll host 1-5, 1-2 Central Connecticut State next Saturday.



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