Robert Morris gets first-ever bid to FCS playoffs
When Robert Morris beat then-No. 14/15 Liberty in Week 3, it was deemed the biggest win in school history.
With a 42-24 victory over Central Connecticut State yesterday afternoon at Joe Walton Stadium, the Colonials won the NEC title and earned the conference’s first-ever automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
“It is the biggest win in Robert Morris history,” coach Joe Walton said. “I’ve been here the whole time, and it means an awful lot to me.
“They started to believe after the Liberty game that we could go someplace, and their level of focus and concentration got better after that game.”
Their eighth straight victory seals Robert Morris’ sixth NEC title since 1996 and sends the Colonials to their first playoff appearance in school history.
“How many people get to win their win the NEC championship on their home field in their last game ever on the field and blow out a team?” senior linebacker Alex DiMichele said. “With all the guys you shed tears with, all the guys you bled with, all the hard work, it’s an amazing feeling right now. I can’t describe it.”
On senior day, it was fittingly the seniors who stepped up on both sides of the ball.
DiMichele, a Sto-Rox product, and fellow senior linebacker Elias Navarro each recorded a team-high 13 tackles.
The Colonials’ defense held the NEC’s No. 1 rushing attack to 72 yards. In the second half, Central Conn. St. had 158 total yards and seven points.
“We knew they were going to get big plays, but above all else, we had to stop them overall,” said Navarro, who also recorded a sack. “They put up 24 points. I credit them with that, but we got the victory.”
The defense also got a lot of help from a potent Colonials offense that racked up 475 yards. It was the seventh time in their past eight games the offense scored at least 30 points.
“Our best defense is when the offense is on the field,” DiMichele said. “When they’re on the field,we get the rest, and it makes things so much easier.”
The defense got plenty of rest, as Robert Morris rushed for 335 yards. Senior running back Myles Russ led with 177 yards, eclipsing the 4,000-yard career mark.
“The line was staying with their blocks at the point of attack, kept on pushing and opened it up, and that’s when I hit the holes,” Russ said.
Russ, the Colonials’ all-time leading rusher, has 4,045 career yards.
The Colonials’ regular-season finale is next Saturday at Bryant. The FCS playoff selection will take place Nov. 21, with the first round of games beginning Nov. 27.
Central Connecticut State vs. Robert Morris
The Colonials win the NEC championship with a 42-24 win over the Blue Devils.