Robert Morris will play North Dakota State in preliminary round
Robert Morris clinched the Northeast Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs two weeks ago.
Now, the Colonials know their opponent.
Robert Morris drew No. 25 North Dakota State in the preliminary round of the Division I-FCS tournament. The game will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D.
The Colonials (8-2, 7-1) earned a share of the NEC title and the conference’s inaugural FCS-playoff bid with a 42-24 win over Central Connecticut State on Nov. 6 at Joe Walton Stadium.
“We just are excited that we’re the first ones,” said Walton, the Colonials’ coach, “and we want to make sure that we represent our conference and represent our university of Robert Morris the way we should.”
North Dakota State is also a first-timer to the FCS playoffs. The Bison transitioned from Division II to Division I-FCS beginning in 2004. This is their first postseason appearance since becoming playoff eligible in 2008.
“We got two new kids on the block trying to establish their programs,” Walton said.
The Bison are one of only six FCS teams to beat an FBS opponent this season. It outlasted Kansas for a 6-3 victory Sept. 4.
Robert Morris defeated a team this season that accomplished the same feat. Then-No. 14/15 Liberty defeated FBS opponent Ball State a week prior to losing at Robert Morris, 30-23.
Walton expects the same challenge from North Dakota State.
“We felt very lucky to have beaten Liberty. That’s the best football team we’ve played since I’ve been here at Robert Morris,” Walton said. “They were big and strong and had good speed, and I don’t look for North Dakota State to be much different. But I think we can play a little bit, too.”
After losing their opener to Dayton, the Colonials had an eight-game winning streak until a 27-21 loss to Bryant in their regular-season finale.
Walton hopes the loss will refocus his team as it enters the playoffs.
“I think one of the best things that happened to us in the entire football season was losing to Dayton in the opening game,” Walton said. “We were all excited, and we went up to Dayton and laid an egg. I think that helped us.
“Maybe the Bryant game will help us in the same way.”