Robert Morris Hall of Famer and radio analyst Brian Cleary breaks down Robert Morris' last road trip of the season against Sacred Heart.
Saturday's Opponent Overview:
Sacred Heart (2-7, 1-5 NEC) vs. Robert Morris (3-6, 2-4 NEC)
Saturday, November 10, 2012 at Noon
Campus Field (3,334) - Farfield, CT
Two programs enter Saturday's game and it's safe to say that it has been a disappointing year for both.
But it's Senior Day for SHU on Saturday and it will be a very long ceremony since there will be 21 seniors honored before the game. So be sure that this group of seniors will do everything in their power to will their team to a victory on Saturday against RMU.
This will mark the 4th straight season for SHU that they will post a below .500 record. But the challenges for Sacred Heart started well before this season with the medical emergency involving Head Coach Paul Gorham. The health issue that Coach Gorham had to face led to Associate Head Coach Mark Nofri taking over the program during the 2012 season.
Coach Gorham's world was completely turned upside down by a lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which has no known cause or cure. He had been airlifted to the Cleveland Clinic after experiencing a tremendous amount of difficulty breathing. Coach Gorham was given about a 15 percent chance to survive at one point in late February while awaiting a donor for a double lung transplant. That battle took a frightening turn one day when Gorham suffered cardiac arrest and was resuscitated with 30 seconds of CPR, which left the outcome so grim that he was briefly inactivated from the donor list. But finally in early March, the prays were answered as Coach Gorham received a double lung transplant. A few weeks later, both of his legs were amputated a few inches below his knees because his lower extremities had been adversely affected by his condition.
On the field, Sacred Heart entered the game at home against Albany on October 27th and decided on a changed within their line-up that almost sparked an upset of then 1st place Great Danes. SHU turned to their backup QB Luke Wischnowski who had a great game but it was not enough.
Colonials' offensive mindset vs. SHU
Colonials received a huge blow along the OL this week with losing LT A.J. Dalton the rest of the season due to violation of team rules. The staff's solution? Take your Sr. TE Tyler Digby and move him to LT.
This is not the non-scholarship Colonials from when I played when I started along the OL at 215lbs my freshman year. This is a scholarship program that should have depth where you don't need to make bold moves like this.
I'm sure Digby is a great blocking TE but there is a big difference when you are on an island on the OL especially at LT. SHU enters Saturday game leading the NEC in sacks with 28. And if Digby is actually going to start at LT then he is going to have his hands full dealing with Chaz Partosan who is the co-leader in the NEC with 7.5 sacks.
So how does this lineup change affect the game-plan? Who knows? The staff will more than likely leave in Paul Evans with Digby to help on pass protection and maybe 100 protection (both RBs stay in to block).
3 Offensive Goals for Saturday:Get Jeff Sinclair out of the pocket
SHU's strength is the play of their DL and the pressure they put on the opponent's QB. The game-plan for Saturday needs to get Jeff on roll outs or more Waggle sets with the TE staying in to block. Another idea would be to put Jeff into the shotgun and wait for the pressure to come and have designed a QB draw up the middle. Get Evan Taylor back to his style.
I'm done worrying about getting Taylor in the end zone since I started to see bigger issues against the Dukes. Taylor was making many of his cuts behind the line of scrimmage instead of hitting the hole hard. Taylor needs to get back to the power running style but it also starts with the play calling. I could see a lot powers called out of Ace or the I formation but ET needs to get back to the way he was running before last week. Protection
Nine games into the 2012 and the Colonials have only given up 23 sacks. I say "only" because if you compare that to 2011 after nine games, that sack total was at 36 sacks. SHU does get pressure with their four DL but do bring late blitzes so this is a big key for the day.
Colonials'defensive strategy vs. SHU
SHU is going to attack RMU with a spread formation and look to run a lot of crossing routes to really put pressure on the LBs in coverage.
But SHU leads the NEC in INTs thrown this season with 15. The Colonials can't take a step backwards with their bend don't break mindset they had last week. They did a great job keeping everything in front of them and when the time came, they clamped down and forced a punt.
SHU brings to the field on Saturday the worst rushing offense in the NEC, only averaging 111 yards per game and only 7 rushing TDs (matching RMU for a NEC low). The defense cannot allow this game to be that game where SHU's rushing attack finally comes alive turning their offense into a more balance attack. The Colonials still need to respect the potential rushing of Spence and Moore.
3 Defensive Goals for Saturday:Pressure on Wischnowski
The Colonials did a good job last week by getting pressure on the Dukes with not having to call on too many blitzes. No Running
Don't let that ground game for SHU develop and force them to be one dimensional.Where is Rock?
WR Rock Tate has been Wischnowski favorite target since Wischnowski took over for Tim Little at QB.
Special Teams Scenarios to watch for:
Thank you Adrian Perez for coming ready to play against the Dukes. Perez blocked the first punt by the Dukes last week which led to the first score of the game. Also Perez had a huge hit on a tackle during the kick off return and also saw him throw a huge block as well. Perez was ready to play and the team did feed off of his energy.
RMU will need another big performance from everyone on Special Teams if they plan on end their drought of winning an over-night road game (Last Win - October 1, 2011 @ Monmouth 23-20).
Tony LaMancusa looked great on all his punts last week and the team will need another performance to help change the field position battle as well.
This is a game which could help spring the program in the right direction not only for the final home game of 2012, but to start the 2013 season. Don't be surprised if you see Coach Banaszak take some chances on Saturday with perhaps a planned fake punt or fake FG.
And can someone please call a middle return on our Kick-Off? We try these right or left returns and while we get decent yards, I think a surprise middle return could spring Brian Jones for a huge game changing return.
The Match-Ups to watch on Saturday:
Former TE now LT Tyler Digby vs. DE Chaz Partosan
This would have been a great match-up for Dalton but that ship has sailed.
Tyler has a monster assignment on Saturday. If the coaches see something in Tyler during practices then we are going to get a quick glimpse into what they saw because expect SHU to try to pressure Tyler all day.
DB Marcelis Branch vs. WR Rock Tate
Marcelis has really developed this season and has turned into the Colonials best DB even as a true freshman. Rock Tate is a seasoned veteran who has the size advantage against Marcelis.
Branch can't get caught up in a strength battle against Tate and he must ensure he is hip to hip with Tate while the ball is in the air.
RMU Football Program vs. Road Games
Last Win - October 1, 2011 @ Monmouth 23-20
Now you throw into the mix that the Colonials are going to play without their best OL. The staff have their hands full this week. If you had to pick a game on the schedule in which the Colonials should win, it would be this game. So what is the staff thinking? Finish strong or just get the season over?
I know no one wants to sit on the bus ride and just have the mindset of getting the game over with. The Colonials led by the seniors should take the field ready to play but everyone must be ready to win the last road trip of the 2012 season.
Brian Cleary starred for Robert Morris as an All-NEC, All-ECAC, and All-American lineman from 1994-1997, helping lead the Colonials to two ECAC Bowl victories. Cleary spent several years on the RMU staff and is now the team's radio color analyst