Opinion: Breaking down RMU football’s 2021 schedule

Luke+Yost%27s+score+predictions+for+the+upcoming+football+season.+Credit%3A+Luke+Yost

Luke Yost’s score predictions for the upcoming football season. Credit: Luke Yost

By Luke Yost, Contributor

Editor’s Note: All opinions on RMU Sentry Media are the writer’s own. 

After years of disappointment, frustration, and questions about the future of the program, the Robert Morris Colonials were able to get over the hump last year. Quite frankly, there’s a lot to love about what the Colonials did last year on the gridiron.

RMU finally found success in the Northeast Conference (NEC) last season. A conference record of 6-1 and 7-5 overall record landed them a second-place finish in the conference. Their only conference loss came against Central Connecticut State (11-2, 7-0 NEC), the eventual conference champions. Between the years of 2014 through 2019, the Colonials’ best conference finish was a three-way tie for fifth place in 2015.

The best word to describe this team last year is opportunistic. Robert Morris didn’t have a flashy offense nor a great defense, but they did the little things right. They stole possessions and had a plus-six turnover margin over the course of the season.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RMU’s first season in the Big South Conference has been moved up to the spring of 2021. The Colonials were scheduled to play as an independent during the fall 2020 season before their first Big South action in fall 2021.

As it sits now, Robert Morris will be playing an objectively tough five-game schedule next spring. The schedule includes one non-conference matchup and four Big South Conference games.

This is a tough schedule, but I feel the Colonials could be a player in the Big South picture in the spring.

Game 1: February 27, 2021, at James Madison University

Colonial fans will not soon forget the last time these two teams faced each other. The Dukes dominated all facets of the game. JMU cruised to a 73-7 victory over RMU in 2018, including 52 first-half points in a commanding effort.

Last year, James Madison only lost two games, controlling the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) with a perfect 8-0 record. The Dukes fell to West Virginia, 20-13, in the first game of the season. Their only other loss came in the FCS championship game to North Dakota State, 28-20.

In the FCS playoffs, JMU played Monmouth, the Big South’s automatic bid, in the first round. The Dukes posted 632 yards of total offense and beat Monmouth 66-21.

The adage of any given Sunday could apply here, but this is a true David versus Goliath matchup.

I think James Madison wins this one, 63-10.

Game 2: March 13, 2021, vs. Monmouth

Monmouth will be the Colonials’ first Big South opponent as a part of the conference. The Hawks lit up the scoreboard last season, averaging 50.1 points per game. Their explosive offense led them to an 11-3 overall record and a 6-0 conference record.

Robert Morris and Monmouth both played the Wagner Seahawks last season. Both the Colonials and the Hawks won their meetings. Monmouth escaped with a 16-14 win, thanks to a last-minute touchdown. RMU beat Wagner, 21-13, after taking the lead early on in the second half.

Hawks’ wide receiver Lonnie Moore will likely give the Colonials young secondary problems. Moore caught 74 passes for 1022 yards and nine touchdowns in 2019. If Moore gets going early, it will become a long afternoon for RMU.

Monmouth wins this game, 23-17.

Game 3: March 20, 2021, at Charleston Southern

The Colonials will face the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at the halfway point of their abbreviated season.

CSU finished third last season in the Big South. The Bucs posted a 6-6 overall record and a 4-2 conference record. Charleston Southern won their last four games to close out the season.

CSU was plagued by their defense last season, giving up 30.1 points per game. However, the Bucs have a pair of preseason All-Americans on the defensive line, Anton Williams and Nick Salley. They could be a problem for a Colonial team that is going to rely heavily on the run game.

Offensively, quarterback Jack Chambers is going to have to carry CSU again this season. Last season, Chambers led the Bucs in both passing and rushing.

Chambers could be tough to handle for Robert Morris. We’ve seen the Colonials have trouble with mobile quarterbacks in the past, looking back at the game against Kentucky State last year as a good example, with Jaylen Myers rushing for 65 yards in that 13-7 loss against the Thorobreds.

I think this will be the best game of the season for the Colonials. It’s undoubtedly going to be close, but I think the Colonials kick a late field goal for a 20-17 win.

Game 4: April 3, 2021, at Kennesaw State

The Colonials have a bye week between the CSU game and their first-ever meeting against the Kennesaw State Owls.

This is a good Owls team looking to better their Big South Conference second-place finish last season. KSU was able to run the ball effectively to an 11-3 overall record and a 5-1 conference record.

Kennesaw State dominates the game on the ground. As a team, KSU gained 5,047 yards, 342.4 yards per game, running the ball in 2019.

Not only do the Owls have a great offensive, but they also have arguably the best defensive in the Big South. The numbers are scary. On average, KSU held opponents to less than 20 points, less than 100 rushing yards, and less than 200 passing yards a game.

I feel the bye week both helps and hurts RMU. It allows the Colonials to rest up and prepare for a heavy running attack. On the flip side, it kills whatever momentum they’ll have after the CSU game.

On paper, KSU should run away with this game, but I think RMU is going to be ready. The Colonials win 28-21.

Game 5: April 10, 2021, vs. Gardner-Webb

The Runnin’ Bulldogs are coming off a disappointing 3-9 overall record and a 1-6 record in-conference.

Gardner-Webb sports an unconventional offense that uses the pass to set up the run. If that sounds backward, it is.

This could play right into RMU’s hands. Last year, the Colonials were a very opportunistic team. Robert Morris is a gritty group that’s going to do whatever it takes to win, and that strategy will be no different against GWU.

Colonials defend their house and win, 24-13.

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