Get to Know an Opponent: Robert Morris

The Bulls take on Robert Morris to open up the 2019 football season

george-martin-robert-morris-university

On Thursday evening, the Bulls will enter UB Stadium as heavy favorites against Robert Morris. 

That isn’t stopping them from treating it as an important contest — memories of the not-too-distant past and nearly-won season openers continue to haunt the football program.

In 2016, the Bulls kicked off their season against the Albany Great Danes, who went just 3-8 — including a 51-14 loss to UB — the year before. Instead of cruising to victory, the Bulls allowed the Danes to hang in the game. In the fourth quarter, Brad Harris and Neven Sussman connected on a 35-yard touchdown. 

As the last buzzer sounded, Albany walked off the field victorious.

Coming off one of the worst seasons in program history, Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponent Robert Morris presents a good opportunity for Buffalo to begin the season with a resounding win. But the ghost of UAlbany is a reminder that there is no such thing as a guaranteed victory.

With next Saturday’s matchup against Penn State looming large for the Bulls, week one will be used as an important indicator of where the team is currently at. Here’s who they will be lining up against Thursday:

COACH: Bernard Clark, 2-9, entering second season at Robert Morris

LOOKING BACK

The Colonials finished the 2018 season with a 2-9 record, spoiling Bernard Clark’s head coaching debut.

Clark, previously a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks in the early ‘90s, had his hands full with Northeast Conference opponents, as the Colonials finished with an 0-6 record against conference foes. The Colonials dropped games to Central Connecticut and Saint Francis (PA), teams they have traditionally had success against.

On the offensive side of the ball, tight end Matthew Gonzalez was named to the All-NEC first-team, after leading the Colonials in receptions (40), receiving yards (642) and touchdowns (12). The Colonials failed to score more than seven points four times on the season, with quarterback Jimmy Walker struggling to get into a groove behind erratic protection.

On the defensive side of the ball, Robert Morris allowed 43.5 points per game, getting outscored 478-271 on the season. Defensive end Amir Fenwick was the lone first-team All-NEC selection, finishing with 33 tackles and 4.5 tackles-for-loss. Linebacker Adam Wollet led the team with 111 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss of yardage. 

Kicker Nick Bisceglia was 4-for-8 on field goals, missing all but two from 30 yards or further.

LOOKING FORWARD

Like the Bulls, the Colonials are looking to replace their starting quarterback. George Martin (18-for-35, 225 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2018) appeared in nine games last season and seems poised to become the starter in 2019. The Colonials return a number of players at key skill positions, including leading rushers Terence Stephens (169 carries for 793 yards and four touchdowns) and Alijah Jackson (105 for 568 and 5). Gonzalez and second-leading receiver Tim Vecchio also return, rounding out the passing attack.

BOTTOM LINE

Robert Morris may have been one of the worst teams in the FCS last season, but they present a unique challenge to the Bulls — they have little to lose. In Bernard Clark’s second season at the helm, RMU will likely come out hungry and determined, looking to take advantage of Buffalo’s young and inexperienced roster. The Bulls have the talent advantage, so week one will be as much about fine-tuning the roster as it will be winning the game.

Sports desk can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com.