2021 Season Preview: Football

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Photo by RMU Athletics

RMU Football is ready for another season in Big South play.

By Michael Deemer, Contributor

A once-in-a-lifetime pandemic delayed the Colonials’ 2020 season to the spring which resulted in a shortened three-game season. Now, a year later, things have started to get back to normal. The season starts on Sep. 4 and the team will play a total of 11 games.

The Big South announced earlier this month that games that can not be completed due to COVID-19 will be declared as a forfeit loss for the school responsible for the outbreak. The Colonials lost two games on their schedule due to that last season.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ALREADY?

The preseason poll has the reigning conference champion, Monmouth, on top with 16 of the possible 18 first-place votes. The Hawks are heavy favorites to go back-to-back as conference champions.

Robert Morris, on the other hand, is at the bottom of the poll with only 29 votes in total. Head coach Bernard Clark has his hands full ahead of the Colonials’ sophomore Big South campaign. The team went 0-3 last year and looks to bounce back from the abbreviated year.

The team has only lost two starters from the previous spring with most of the starters returning entering their senior or graduate years. Most of this team has experience and time will tell to see if the Colonials can use that to their advantage.

GAMES TO WATCH

Sep. 4 @ Dayton – Noon

The Colonials kick off their 2021 campaign with a familiar foe in the Dayton Flyers. The two rivals have played nearly every September since 2004, with an exception of 2005 and 2020.

The Flyers lead the all-time series 14-1, with RMU’s only win coming in 2017 at home. The first game of the season, just like for everyone else, may determine the outlook for the rest of this fall. This will give the Colonials some confidence heading into Big South play if they play their cards right.

Sep. 25 vs. Howard – Noon

The last time the Colonials played a home game before this matchup would be 672 days ago. A November 23, 2019 contest against Sacred Heart was the last time Joe Walton Stadium opened its doors for a football game. The players will finally get a sense of normalcy hearing the “Colonial Crazies” for the first time in what seems like an eternity.

After the game, it will be emotional as well with a memorial service for the program’s founder and longtime Robert Morris head coach, Joe Walton. Walton, the name emblazoned on the scoreboard, is the winningest coach in Colonials history. He has 115 career wins and coached the team from 1994 to 2013. Walton passed away on August 15 at the age of 85.

Oct. 9 vs. Charleston Southern – 3 pm

Charleston Southern will come into town for RMU’s homecoming. These two faced off for the first time in history last April as the Buccaneers defeated the Colonials 27-14. Homecoming is a special time for these seniors since their families will be in the bleachers at Joe Walton Stadium for the first time in nearly two years. A win would be much more special on this day than others.

Nov. 13 @ Monmouth – Noon

The Colonials will travel to West Long Branch, New Jersey to take on the defending Big South champions. This will be the 21st matchup between these two with the series tied 10-10. This by far is the biggest challenge for RMU as the Hawks also kept a lot of their starters from last spring. In fact, all 11 of the starting offense is back for the fall and 13 of the starting 22 last season won All-Big South First Team.

The player to watch for the Hawks will be starting quarterback Tony Muskett, the reigning Offensive Freshman of the Year who led his team to a Big South title. There is no denying that he will be back and better than ever when they face the Colonials in the penultimate game of the regular season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS SEASON

George Martin, QB

Martin has been the leader since he took the starting quarterback job in his sophomore season. Despite a winless season, Martin both set a career-high in passing yards in a game vs Charleston Southern (304) and tied for the lead in the Big South for the least interceptions thrown with two. He will look to improve driving down the field and prevent turnovers this fall.

Alijah Jackson, RB

Also entering his senior season, Jackson made the most of the abbreviated campaign, leading the team in all-purpose yards, thanks to being a weapon in not just the run game, but the passing game as well. In just three contests, he set a career-high in receiving yards with 97, keep watch for no. 2 as another weapon for Martin and the Colonials.

Aniello Buzzacco, LB

Buzzacco can do it all. He was named to the First Team All-Big South and lead the team in almost every defensive category last season for his work on the field. Dating back to 2019, the six-foot linebacker finished with double-digit tackles in six consecutive games including 10 of the last 12. Buzzacco is a scholar in the classroom as well, honored with the CoSIDA Academic All-District for his work in the field and the classroom.

In one of the craziest seasons by far last spring, this year’s should be very interesting too. In just a three-game schedule, at least in the Big South, Bernard Clark’s team comes off as the most mysterious this upcoming year and seems disrespected by the media. Do not be surprised if the Colonials pull off a surprise win or two this season.

Record Prediction: 3-8