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November 2, 2013

Jones, Mitchell & defense lead RMU over Bryant

It would have been perfectly understandable if Paul Jones was a little tentative at quarterback in his first game back from a concussion.

It would have been perfectly reasonable for him to try to avoid hits or even be a little rusty.

Jones was neither tentative nor rusty, as he tossed three touchdown passes to Duane Mitchell and ran for a team-high 86 yards to help push Robert Morris over Bryant 24-3.

"It's tough, especially with a concussion. Your body will feel good but your brain will tell you no," Jones said. "I didn't feel too rusty."

Robert Morris' defense also had a big day, totaling five sacks and four turnovers - including two interceptions from Antwan Eddie.

"I think they're maturing and I think they're learning how to play together," head coach Joe Walton said. " And the game plans have been pretty damn good by (defensive coordinator) Scott Farison.

Faced with the task of slowing down the NEC's all-time leading receiver in Jordan Harris, Farison and the defensive staff came up with a game plan to try and force Bryant to rely on the run. Safety Eric Lowry was physical with Harris at the line of scrimmage, and as Harris released on his routes, Lowry handed off coverage to Eddie at corner.

"I told coach I wanted him all game and he gave me the chance," said Eddie, who added RMU usually doesn't play those sorts of match-ups. "It's dependent on the receiver. We haven't come across teams with receivers with stats like his."

Eddie won the battle, as Harris had just two receptions for 22 yards and Westerhaus completed 14-of-31 passes for just 115 yards. Eddie had two interceptions, linebacker Kyle Cooper had an interception and a forced fumble, and the defensive line sacked Bryant quarterback Mike Westerhaus five times.

"They're doing a lot of things that you coach and coach and coach, and all of a sudden they seem to get it," Walton said. "Everything comes together and they're playing with a lot of enthusiasm, which is another thing that's very important in this game."

With the defense shutting Bryant's offense down, Robert Morris' offense was able to take several shots. The first came on the third play from scrimmage, as Jones dropped back and hit Mitchell on the sideline. The junior receiver shed the tackle and raced 67 yards for the touchdown.

"He's getting more comfortable in everything we have and everything we do," Walton said of his redshirt junior quarterback. "I knew that was going to take time. Most of his passes were on target today. It just seems like he's coming into his own."

Jones' second touchdown pass of the game might have been the play of the day. With Robert Morris up 10-3, Eddie picked off Westerhaus for the second tie to give Robert Morris great field position. Facing third-and-six from the Bryant 12-yard line, Jones escaped the blitz, and with his body falling backward, threw off his back foot toward the end zone.

"I was definitely a little nervous when the ball was in the air," Jones said. "I saw them coming on a blitz that we talked about all week, but it was too late. I figured I'd try to make something happen and luckily it worked."

It worked because Jones somehow still got plenty of strength on the ball to get it to Mitchell, who boxed out a man one yard deep in the end zone to haul in the touchdown. Mitchell said one thing went through his mind when he saw Jones try to keep the play alive and get a pass off.

"I think it was spinning laterally," Mitchell said, a wide smile on his face. "That's the only thing going through my mind: Catch it, catch it, catch it."

Five minutes later, Mitchell added his third touchdown grab, a more conventional 13-yard toss from Jones to give Robert Morris a 24-3 lead. Jones was 7-of-14 for 120 yards, while Mitchell led all receivers with three grabs for 92 yards. Jones' 86 yards rushing were a career best, and several of the runs came as he tried to keep drives alive.

"I told these guys that I don't really care about my body too much," Jones said. "I'll do what I have to do to win, and these bumps and bruises feel a lot better after a win."

Lowry led the defense with 11 tackles, while safety D.J. Myers chipped in ten. Defensive end Forrest Mason had two of Robert Morris' five sacks.

The win was Robert Morris' first in five tries against Bryant and it kept Robert Morris alive in the race for the Northeast Conference title with three games left.

"I never feel like I have any monkeys on my back," Walton said. "But it's nice to win this game, that's for sure. It still puts us in position. We could still have a shot."

Robert Morris: Duane Mitchell 67 yd pass from Paul Jones (Conner Shennan kick)
BRYANT: Tom Alberti 38 yd FG
Robert Morris: Conner Shennan 35 yd FG
Robert Morris: Duane Mitchell 12 yd pass from Paul Jones (Conner Shennan kick)
Robert Morris: Duane Mitchell 13 yd pass from Paul Jones (Conner Shennan kick)
Robert MorrisBRYANT
Total Plays5673
Average Gain5.43.1
Average per rush4.32.8
Yards Lost-6-35
Fumbles Lost01
Penalty Yards4036
Time of Possesion31:5528:5
Punt Average3944.67
Return Yards55131
Paul Jones714120308.6
Mike Westerhaus1433115033.5
Paul Jones128607.2
Ryan Thermil104804.8
Deontae Howard113303.0
Phil Peckich81702.1
Michael Perry2413105.5
Jose DePadua111011.0
Ryan Black61001.7
Jordan Harris2201.0
Danny Epstein1-10-1.0
Mike Westerhaus6-420-7.0
Duane Mitchell392330.7
Sean Gavin21306.5
Chad Dawgiello1808.0
Andrew Smith1707.0
Jose DePadua21306.5
John Lavin113013.0
Chad Ward112012.0
Ryan Black1303.0
Tyler McIntyre1101.0
Michael Perry330010.0
DJ Randle El32107.0
Jordan Harris222011.0

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

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