RMU football returns home for first time in 671 days

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Photo by RMU Athletics

RMU football is preparing for their home opener against Howard.

By Nathan Breisinger, Sports Multimedia Editor

When kick-off takes place this Saturday between the Robert Morris Colonials and the Howard Bison at Joe Walton Stadium, it will be all of 671 days since the last time RMU football played a game on home turf.

Trial Run

In the season opener for Robert Morris, the Colonials fell to Central Michigan by a steep margin of 45-0. The Colonials were without many of their starters due to COVID-19 protocols including starting running back Alijah Jackson. As a result, head coach Bernard Clark turned to a list of backups for the Colonials.

“The thing that hampered us [was] we went out there with not one wide receiver that ever played a college game, not one running back that ever played a college game and not one tight end that ever played a college game.”

While RMU had no answers for the Chippewas, the young players for the Colonials had the opportunity to get their first collegiate action. The most notable out of the freshmen group that received some touches was wide receiver Jaylon Brown. Brown had one reception but ran the ball three times, including a run that broke free for 24-yards, which resulted in the longest play of the day for the Colonials.

“The guys that went out on the field, they fought,” Clark said. “There were some things that encouraged me while watching those guys fight because we knew once we got the rest of our guys back and we mesh that thing together, we will be in a much better situation.”

Defensive Attack

Despite the blowout loss against the Chippewas, the Colonials’ defense battled throughout the game. Linebacker Jamar Shegog had his coming-out party for RMU as he registered 18 tackles, including seven solo tackles and one sack. The most significant defensive stop for the Colonials came at the hands of Shegog, who stood up Central Mighigan’s Darius Bracy for no gain on a 4th and goal from RMU’s four-yard line.

The redshirt sophomore totaled 28 tackles during the spring campaign and added a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Clark had high praise for Shegog’s play over the calendar year.

“Jamar’s been all over the place on defense since he got here. He’s showed us what he’s been able to do since he was a freshman. That’s a pretty good Saturday when you have 18 tackles.”

Preparing for Howard

Coming into the first-ever meeting with the Colonials, the Howard Bison are riding a three-game losing streak to start the season. The Bison have fallen to Richmond, Maryland and Hampton respectively, and have allowed 49.3 points per game. Additionally, the Bison have averaged 308 yards per game.

Junior quarterback Quinton Williams will lead the way for the Bison as he has thrown for 216.6 yards per game with four touchdown passes and three interceptions. Last season in seven games, Williams tossed six touchdowns while throwing six interceptions as well.

“I’ve watched the first three games in which Howard played in, and each week you see those guys getting better. What you see is a lot of talent on the football field, and you just worry about when it’s finally going to come together, so our guys got to prepare for that.”

Remembering Joe Walton

The founding father of Robert Morris football passed away on August 15, 2021, at the age of 85. Walton spent 19 seasons from 1994-2013 as the head coach of the Colonials. The Beaver Falls native built the program from scratch by recruiting players, hiring assistant coaches and buying equipment. With the Colonials, Walton won six regular-season titles and was named NEC coach of the year four times.

Robert Morris will hold a ceremony for the legacy of Joe Walton following the game to honor his contributions to the football program.

“He was the catalyst. I’m humbled to be representing him on the field on Saturday. What coach Walton did here was outstanding [with] the stadium he built, the team he built [and] the tradition he built.”

Distant Past

The last memory of Colonial football at “The Joe” comes from a kick that went wide left off of the left foot of Sacred Heart’s Dane Borges with zeros illuminating the clock on the scoreboard. RMU players and coaches stormed the field on November 23, 2019, to celebrate a close but hard-fought 16-14 win over the Pioneers.

While the victory over Sacred Heart is in the distant past, head coach Bernard Clark and the Colonials are poised to return home and revive their winning ways. After a dismal spring season that saw the Colonials go 0-3 and an early-season loss two weeks ago against Central Michigan, Robert Morris will seek their first win in just under two years.

“I don’t like talking about the past, but I keep reminding my team that we haven’t won a game since 2019. So it’s time for us to kick this thing into gear and see what we are capable of doing.” Clark said.

Return of Fans

Like many other teams across the college football landscape, the Colonials will welcome back fans to Joe Walton Stadium for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. It will be a sense of normalcy with fans returning to the parking lots pre-game to tailgate and to watch Robert Morris take on the Bison.

While it will already be an emotionally charged game with the first home game since 2019, the Joe Walton ceremony and now the fans, Clark wants to ensure his guys that they need to remain focused on the task at hand.

“I think it’s an exciting atmosphere. The thing we prepared them for is to take it play-by-play. I understand the fans are back but don’t let that overwhelm what we’ve come to do. It’s always a business trip. It’s all about winning the football game and getting onto the next one.”

24 hours remain for the Colonials to get ready for the Bison and their long-awaited return to “The Joe”. You can find Clark’s full media availability here.