PREVIEW: Robert Morris seeks revenge against James Madison


Football travels to James Madison in hopes of righting the wrongs that happened in their matchup in 2018, a 73-7 loss. Photo Credit: David Auth

By Nick Hedderick, Contributor

HARRISONBURG, Va.– RMU football begins a new chapter this season by attempting to erase an old one. After falling 73-7 to James Madison two seasons ago, RMU has a chance to upset the second-ranked team in the nation on Saturday. The contest is also the team’s only non-conference game in their five-game season.

A Look at the Colonials

Bernard Clark’s squad might be missing the efforts of tight end Matthew Gonzalez, receivers Tim Vecchio and DeLano Madison, and defensive back Mason Gray, but the Colonials are returning a fair share of veterans on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback George Martin returns with an experienced offensive line, led by redshirt senior Eric Mcallister II, and has Alijah Jackson and Garrett Houser to assist with the load on offense. Jackson was second in rushing in the Northeast Conference last season, tallying 971 yards and four touchdowns. Houser might not have been Martin’s top target, but he registered two 100-yard receiving games and scored five touchdowns.

The receiving corps gained multiple players via the transfer portal in D’Andre Hicks of McNeese State, Marcus Ademilola, a tight end from Bucknell and Daevon Robinson from Rutgers. The mix of transfers, freshmen, and returning players allows the Colonial offense to have ample opportunities to surprise opposing defenses.

Aniello Buzzacco, the NEC’s leader in tackles last year, returns to lead the team’s defense. Brady Ours joins him to anchor the middle of the defense unit. Jacob White returns as well after racking up 81 tackles last season, good for 11th in the NEC.

There are defensive transfers as well; including Ceneca Espinoza, Jr., who comes to RMU from Liberty and gives the Colonials another playmaker in the secondary. He will help RMU try and replicate its 23 turnovers last season.

Considering all of the new faces on the team, RMU will need all of the stars to align and allow everyone to be in sync if the team is to find success against a James Madison team that already has a game under its belt.

Scouting the Dukes

The Dukes had a thunderous start to their season last week, topping Morehead State 52-0. JMU’s offense showed what it was capable of by scoring 21 points in the opening quarter, setting the pace for the remaining 45 minutes of play.

Leading the offensive charge was Percy Agyei-Obese due to his 116-yard and one touchdown showing. Not to be outdone, fellow running back Latrele Palmer added two touchdowns and 90 yards on the ground.

In total, JMU posted an astounding 556 yards of offense and averaged over seven yards-per-play. To say that Morehead State couldn’t keep up would be just a bit of an understatement. The Eagles failed to pass the century mark in total yards, garnering 98 on the day. Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey led the stellar defensive effort with his team-high eight tackles.

Any concerns of JMU not being able to replicate the success that they found last season seem to be pushed aside after one week of play. With a strong running game and tenacious defense, the gears surely seem to be turning.

Players to Watch

Alijah Jackson (RMU) – Jackson might have changed his number for this upcoming season, but the team needs him to provide the same spark on offense. His acceleration and agility allowed him to slice through defenses last season, and those efforts will definitely be needed if RMU wants to move the ball against a James Madison defense that wasn’t really tested last week.

Aniello Buzzacco (RMU) – Much like Jackson, Buzzacco needs to keep a fire lit underneath the RMU defense. After a very successful 2019 season, he needs to bring a similar energy and tenacity on the defensive side against James Madison. Wearing down ball carriers and the offensive line could be a significant advantage for RMU if they want to compete against the Dukes.

Percy Agyei-Obese (JMU) – Agyei-Obese had a career day last Saturday. This week, he gets to go up against an RMU defensive line that has struggled with stopping the run in the first couple of years under Bernard Clark. Although Clark is a defensive minded coach, Agyei-Obese could expose some flaws in the defense.

Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey (JMU) – The redshirt junior pioneered the stellar defensive effort from JMU last Saturday. With all of the newly added skill players for RMU, preventing them from gaining momentum is crucial. Tucker-Dorsey could lead the defense to another great afternoon if he keeps RMU in check.


RMU might surprise a few people in Big South play this season, but James Madison is an entirely different breed. I think that the Colonials will compete early before allowing the Dukes to pull away in the game’s second half.

Score: 62-16 James Madison