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October 26, 2013

RMU defense, Prather spark comeback

Down to its third string quarterback and with it season potentially hanging in the balance, Robert Morris made a stand on Staten Island.

Marcus Prather, an Akron transfer who began the year as the Colonials' third string quarterback, threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes and RMU's defense came up with three interceptions to give the Colonials a 17-13 comeback win over Wagner.

Prather was pressed into service because starting quarterback Paul Jones missed the game with concussion-like symptoms. Jones was battered on several plays against Duquesne last week, tried to practice, and wasn't on the injury report, but RMU decided to hold him out. With back-up QB Derik Abbott out for the year because of a shoulder injury, the burden fell to Prather to guide Robert Morris.

Robert Morris' offense was sluggish all day, as the Colonials failed to develop any sort of a running game. But with RMU down 10-3 midway through the fourth quarter, Prather went to work, and he benefited from great field position. Antwan Eddie returned a punt 25 yards to the Wagner 35-yard line and was hit out of bounds. That personal foul, plus one on Robert Morris' first down play, gave the Colonials the ball on the Seahawks' 10-yard line. Prather then found Duane Mitchell for a 10-yard touchdown that tied the game at 10 with 7:09 remaining.

Wagner chewed four minutes off the clock with a 9-play drive that took the Seahawks to the RMU 20-yard line, where David Lopez connected on a 37-yard field goal to push Wagner back in front 13-10 with 3:01 remaining.

But Prather wasn't fazed. After Tyler Digby couldn't corral a pass on first down, Prather hit Mitchell, Andrew Smith and then Mitchell again for three straight first downs to push RMU inside the Wagner 20-yard line. But the Colonials could only get to the 11-yard line and were staring at fourth-and-2 with less than 90 seconds left.

Robert Morris had a chance to tie the game against Duquesne last week, but Hunter Khaleghi missed the game-tying extra point. That, plus Khaleghi's inconsistency on field goals, led to Joe Walton going back to opening day kicker Connor Shennan against Wagner. But with Shennan just 1-for-3 on field goals on the day and the three points just giving RMU a tie, Walton decided to go for it on fourth down.

Robert Morris executed his play call perfectly. Prather faked a hand-off, spun around and hit a wide open Digby for the 11-yard touchdown. Wagner got the ball back with 1:17 left and got into Robert Morris territory, but Eric Lowry picked off Kramer Berg to seal the win.

Prather finished 17-of-33 for 204 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception and was sacked four times. Mitchell had a career-high eight receptions for a career-high 141 yards, while Digby had four catches for 48 yards. Robert Morris managed just 27 yards rushing on 36 carries, a large reason why the offense struggled until the fourth quarter.

But Robert Morris was in the game because of its defense. Star Wagner running back Dominique Williams found room to run on just one play, a 73-yard touchdown run just after halftime that put Wagner up 10-3. Williams carried 31 times for 177 yards, meaning RMU held him to less than 3.5 yards per carry outside of that touchdown run.

Wagner had to lean on Williams because the passing game couldn't get anything going. Chris Andrews started the game at quarterback but was 0-for-8 with an interception. Kramer Berg stepped in to finish the game and was 12-of-26 for 112 yards and an interception.

Robert Morris focused on stopping the run and daring Wagner to pass, and it worked well. Mike Cook had a team-high ten tackles plus an interception, and Luke Mueller had his first career interception. Mueller also registered a sack to go along with five tackles.

The Colonials improved to 3-4, 1-1 in the Northeast Conference with the win. Robert Morris' title hopes are still alive, as Duquesne lost to Bryant, giving every team in the league at least one loss. RMU hosts Bryant on Saturday.

Wagner: David Lopez 43 yd FG
Robert Morris: Conner Shennan 28 yd FG
Wagner: Dominique Williams 73 yd run (David Lopez kick)
Robert Morris: Duane Mitchell 10 yd pass from Marcus Prather (Conner Shennan kick)
Wagner: David Lopez 37 yd FG
Robert Morris: Tyler Digby 11 yd pass from Marcus Prather (Conner Shennan kick)
WagnerRobert Morris
Total Plays8169
Average Gain4.33.3
Average per rush50.8
Yards Lost-3-24
Fumbles Lost01
Penalty Yards15342
Time of Possesion28:931:51
Punt Average35.636.33
Return Yards89162
Kramer Berg1226112024.3
Chris Andrews080010.0
Matt Misley119009.0
Marcus Prather1733204216.2
Dominique Williams3117715.7
Chris Andrews83504.4
Kramer Berg41102.8
Matthias McKinnon2703.5
Matt Misley1000.0
Duane Mitchell1505.0
Marcus Prather10000.0
Ryan Thermil1000.0
Corey Garry1-40-4.0
Deontae Howard111401.3
Phil Peckich111301.2
Anthony Carrington76909.9
Tyree Watkins54408.8
Dominique Williams1808.0
Duane Mitchell8141117.6
Tyler Digby448112.0
Andrew Smith115015.0
D.J. Hayes1404.0
Phil Peckich1202.0
D.J. Pearson1101.0
Deontae Howard1-70-7.0

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