By Spencer Kowitz
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of Robert Morris athletics.
MOON TOWNSHIP, PA. — The Robert Morris University football team was unable to maintain its halftime lead on a rainy Saturday evening and dropped a 16-7 decision to Duquesne in Northeast Conference (NEC) action at Joe Walton Stadium.
The RMU defense kept the Colonials in the game for much of the night as it held the Dukes to one touchdown and zero scoring drives longer than 50 yards. Robert Morris held the guests under a 50% completion mark and limited preseason All-American receiver Chris King to just two receptions.
Sophomore linebacker Gerald Ferguson, making just his second start of 2015, led all players with a career-high 15 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. Ferguson also added a pair of pass breakups, both of which came on third down to force punts.
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Zack Zamiska notched a career-best eight stops, including a half sack, against the Dukes.
Sophomore Cole Blake led the RMU offense as he carried 22 times for 117 yards. It marks the second time in the past five games in which he surpassed the century mark in rushing.
The first 10 drives of the game saw four punts and a turnover by each team. RMU reached the Dukes’ territory on three of its five drives but could not reach the scoring column.
After the Colonials committed their lone turnover of the half, junior weak safety Andy Smigiera helped return the favor by stripping the ball free from a Dukes’ receiver.
Redshirt senior captain Mike Stojkovic grabbed the pigskin and rumbled 44 yards the other direction.
On RMU’s fifth drive of the game, its punt was partially blocked, giving Duquesne a golden drive start with regard to field position.
The Dukes only managed seven yards on the ensuing possession, but that was enough to allow them to convert a field goal.
A pair of punts followed, and true freshman Warren Robinson returned the second one 23 yards to near midfield.
Blake ran for 19 yards, and true freshman Mathew Barr hit redshirt sophomore Nic Lamica for 29 yards on the ensuing drive to move the ball into the red zone.
Sophomore Rameses Owens punched it in from five yards out to put the Colonials on top.
The Dukes drove 43 yards on eight plays on the next drive and hit a 45-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half.
A three-and-out and a short punt on the first drive of the second half gave Duquesne great field position for its first drive in the stanza.
The Dukes needed to drive just 20 yards to set up their kicker with a 44-yard attempt that was converted.
RMU picked up a couple of first downs on its next drive and reached the Duquesne 34-yard line before two penalties set it back.
The Colonials would be forced to punt from near midfield near the midpoint of the third quarter.
Each team netted one first down on its next drive, but both ended in punts, essentially sending the game into the fourth period.
Duquesne then used a 40-yard pass on third down to move into the red zone. It found the end zone for the only time with an 8-yard pass on third-and-goal.
Robert Morris drove to the Dukes’ 36-yard line on its next possession but then turned the ball over on downs.
The Dukes missed a field goal on their next drive although they did manage to chew more than five valuable minutes off the clock.
RMU forced Duquesne into a three-and-out on its next two drives, but the Colonials were unable to string together enough first downs on their final three possessions to have a chance at a comeback.
Stojkovic returned the recovered fumble 44 yards, which stands as the fifth longest fumble return in Colonial history. He finished with seven stops and a pass breakup in addition to his recovery.
Redshirt senior linebacker Jake Tkach posted eight stops, including a half tackle for loss.
Owens moved into the RMU career top 10 in rushing yards (866) with his effort Saturday.
The Colonials will look to get back on the winning track next Saturday, Oct. 31, as they travel to Central Connecticut State for a game that will be broadcast on ESPN3.