Game #4: Lafayette vs. Robert Morris University
Michael Kelley '14
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012 18:09
With a win this Saturday, Lafayette football will be 4-0 for the first time since 1988. But standing in their way of re-writing the books is Robert Morris University (0-3), a team that Lafayette has never played in their 130 years of existence.
First time opponents can affect a team’s preparation, although it didn’t hurt in their 17-14 season opening victory against William and Mary, a team also new to Lafayette. After studying three RMU game films, Lafayette should be able to pick up on their style of play.
What can’t be anticipated is the playing field at RMU, located outside of Pittsburgh in Moon Township.
“It’s just a matter of playing at a place we never played before,” Head Coach Frank Tavani said. “You don’t have a total sense [of a team] not seeing live play and not being involved in the heart of the team. We have those three games and we have some feel for how they play, their speed of the game, those things.
Robert Morris began their season without starting quarterback Jeff Sinclair ‘13. Without Sinclair, RMU struggled offensively. In their first two games, the Colonials lost to No. 1 North Dakota State, 52-0 and Albany, 35-10. Sinclair returned last week and guided RMU to a closer contest, throwing two touchdowns, but also two interceptions, in a 20-14 loss against the University of Dayton.
Sure to give Sinclair problems all evening is the Lafayette defense, which leads the nation in turnover differential at +3.3 per game. After tying a school record with seven interceptions against the University of Pennsylvania in week two, the defense picked off two more last weekend against Bucknell.
Last season, the defense recorded just 12 turnovers. Through three games this season, they have 13. Linebacker Mike Boles ‘14 credited a talented secondary and a strong defensive line that consistently puts pressure on the quarterback, leading to errant throws.
Boles is still without an interception, though. Kasheem Hill ‘14, Ben Aloi ‘14, and Colton Kirkpatrick ‘15 each have one and they let him hear about it in practice.
“It’s a little under my skin, but I’m going to get one eventually,” Boles said, laughing.
Another bright spot on defense comes from the play of defensive lineman Shane Dorner ‘15. Dorner filled in for the injured James Coscia ‘15 and recorded three sacks against Bucknell.
On offense, the running attack continues to be problematic. Last week, Lafayette averaged a measly 0.4 yards, rushing for 11 yards on 31 attempts. But with Bucknell consistently crowding the line of scrimmage, Tavani does not put the entire blame on his backs and offensive line.
“Not running the ball doesn’t sit well enough. The bottom line is if you’re going to commit that many people to stopping the run, you’re going to have a hard time running the ball,” Tavani said. “Everybody has to block everybody perfectly and your running back has to make someone miss and we didn’t do that.”
In the passing game, Jamel Smith has become a reliable target for quarterback Andrew Shoop ‘13. Against Bucknell, Smith overcame two early drops to catch six passes for 71 yards. He will see more opportunities tomorrow.
Lafayette was a combined 6-16 in the past two seasons. This season may provide redemption, especially for the upperclassmen. There are many reasons behind the newfound success, but a main one stems from the team’s overall chemistry.
“I feel so close to everyone on the roster,” tight end Kevin Hall ‘14 said. “Every play, I’m not only playing for my teammates, but my friends. We’re all pulling really hard for each other.”
After Robert Morris, Lafayette will play two consecutive games against Ivy League foes, Princeton and Yale, before finishing Patriot League play.
Additional Game Notes: Coaching Robert Morris since their program began in 1994 is the legendary Joe Walton, a 1957 University of Pittsburgh graduate that went on to coach the New York Jets from 1983-1989. Walton played eight seasons in the NFL for the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants.
Injury Report: Defensive back Kyle Sakowski ‘16 is questionable for tomorrow’s game with an ankle injury that he sustained in the fourth quarter against Bucknell.