No matter the talent at quarterback or running, no matter the quality of play at corner, football success always hinges on the play of the lines.
Robert Morris' spring ball performance was no different. Paul Jones and Derik Abbott combined to go for 7-of-15 for 104 yards, but the two headliners were overshadowed by the defense's five sacks and a strong performance from running back Kenneth Davis in the defense's 19-17 win.
The Colonials were down to five offensive linemen when Maxwell Robertson came down with a minor injury, and the lack of rotation ended up harming Robert Morris' consistency. Head coach Joe Walton still praised the group's performance and his team overall.
"We were down to five, but we expect to have about 15 in camp. They've gotten a lot better. I know there aren't too many of them, but there's guys doing things now that they weren't able to do last year," Walton said. "It's a good group. They're trying to get better and they're working hard and only good things can come from that."
The story of camp has centered around the two quarterbacks. Abbott, a sophomore, is the 5-foot-11 mobile passer, while Jones, a transfer from Penn State, is the typical 6-foot-4 strong-armed pro-style quarterback.
"Derik is really improved. He's been here a year. And Paul picked up things pretty well for just coming in brand new," Walton said. "Certainly glad I had him this spring, because that will help him going into the fall camp. They've got a little bit of talent."
Jones received the first few reps, and after a shaky start that included sacks by Forrest Mason and Kimani Smith, he led the offense to its only touchdown of the day. After three runs by Ryan Thermil, Jones hit Duane Mitchell over the middle. The junior wide receiver scampered 45 yards to set up Kenny Davis's 15-yard touchdown run.
Jones stayed on the field for four more plays before a brief special teams interlude. Then Abbott took the field for the first time, slowly working the way down field to set Zack Keaton up for a 43-yard field goal try. Keaton missed, but a penalty gave the offense a first down. Abbott moved the offense closer, but Keaton's 30-yard try went wide.
Jones took over for 12 more plays, but couldn't get Robert Morris toward the end zone. Two drops by receivers contributed to the struggles, and Jones finished 2-for-6 for 60 yards.
Abbott didn't have much more luck, as a drop ended one drive and miscommunication on a slant route between Abbott and Sean Gavin nearly resulted in an Antwan Eddie interception on the next. Davone Swain did get the defense's lone pick of the day three plays later when he held onto a pass over the middle. Abbott finished 5-of-9 for 44 yards.
Davis led Robert Morris with eight carries for 73 yards.
Though the defense didn't have many splash plays, the five sacks certainly helped carry the day. A.J. Holderman had two of the takedowns to join Mason, Smith, and T.J. Matrascia. The defense also showcased a lot of interchangable parts, including a few series that featured corner David Taylor at safety.
"Right now it's a coin flip away from who's going to start and who is going to get playing time," veteran safety D.J. Myers said." Camp's going to be very interesting. This offseason, this next two or three months, is going to determine a lot for a lot of players, myself as well."
The spring game was the last for Walton, who will retire at the end of the 2013 season.
"There's a lot of lasts coming up here," Walton chuckled. "As I've said before, 20 years doing one thing is maybe long enough."
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.