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District Colleges

District football Week 2 preview: Robert Morris eyes upset at Youngstown State

| Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, 6:20 p.m.
Robert Morris' Gerald Ferguson earned  Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Week after helping the Colonial to a 13-10 victory over Dayton.
Robert Morris athletics
Robert Morris' Gerald Ferguson earned Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Week after helping the Colonial to a 13-10 victory over Dayton.
Slippery Rock senior receiver Marcus Johnson, a University Prep grad, caught 12 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns in SRU's win over Kentucky State.
Slippery Rock Athletics
Slippery Rock senior receiver Marcus Johnson, a University Prep grad, caught 12 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns in SRU's win over Kentucky State.

Game of the week

Robert Morris at YSU

2 p.m. Saturday

If a few of Youngstown State's players felt a familiar vibe during their narrow loss to Pitt last week, there's a good reason.

In 2015, the Penguins were on the other end of a similar drama when Robert Morris came to Youngstown and forced the then-No. 17-ranked hosts to overtime before losing 21-14. The Colonials return to Youngstown on Saturday to face the Penguins, ranked No. 6 in the latest American Football Coaches Association FCS poll.

But YSU's effort against Pitt didn't change the way Robert Morris coach John Banaszak regards the Penguins. He knows they posed a stiff challenge regardless.

“It's not going to change our approach,” Banaszak said. “We're going to go out there, and we're going to compete.

“Do I think we can win? Yeah. All the stars would have to align the right way, but I think we can go in there and compete and come out with a win.”

Robert Morris is coming off a dramatic victory in its opener. It needed a late field goal from Nick Bisceglia (Kiski Area) to defeat Dayton, 13-10.

But, Banaszak said, beating YSU will require a better effort than what the Colonials gave against the Flyers.

“Last year we gave up way too many big plays,” Banaszak said about that 38-6 loss. “But I think we're a better football team (this year).”

Reigning Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Week Gerald Ferguson also is confident his team can go toe-to-toe with Youngstown State.

“The past few years, if a team went up on us, we put our heads down and gave up,” said Ferguson, who experienced only seven wins in his first three seasons at RMU. “Now, we're going to fight and give more effort.”

If there was one thing the Colonials learned from watching YSU put a scare into Pitt, Ferguson said, it was the way so many of the Penguins backs and receivers went unchecked as they got into their routes.

“Pitt's defense let their receivers run free,” Ferguson said. “(The coaches) told us to get hands on the receivers and mess up their timing.”

Othertopmatchups

W&J at Grove City

1:30 p.m. Saturday

A trap game for the Presidents? After a big win over then-No. 23 St. John Fisher last week, W&J hosts powerhouse Thomas More next week. But in between are the Wolverines, who desperately are trying to snap a 31-game losing streak.

Wooster at Allegheny

5 p.m. Saturday

The Gators will try to build on their first season-opening win in five years. Allegheny defeated Thiel, 38-6, last Thursday. ... These teams wore out the scoreboard operater last season, with Wooster prevailing 49-40. Allegheny's Alex Victor had four total touchdowns in that game.

West Chester at SRU

6 p.m. Saturday

West Chester was voted the preseason favorite in the PSAC East, but Slippery Rock has won it past 10 regular-season games against East opponents by an average margin of 32.6 points. ... West Chester is No. 24 in the latest AFCA Division II poll.

Player focus

Marcus Johnson, SRU

Senior WR

After spending his freshman season at Thiel, Johnson, a University Prep graduate, started slowly as a sophomore with The Rock — seven catches, 126 yards, one TD — but had a breakout season in 2016.

He caught 54 passes for 898 yards and 13 touchdowns to earn All-PSAC second-team honors.

In Slippery Rock's season-opening victory over Kentucky State, Johnson caught a career-high 12 passes for 231 yards — 6 yards off the program record he set last season — and three touchdowns.

By the numbers

3 — PAC teams — Thomas More (No. 18), Case Western (19), W&J (23) — ranked in the latest d3football.com top 25 poll.

11 — Receptions for Gannon's Tyler Palka last week in his first career start at WR. He played QB his first three years in college.

Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at ccurti@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.

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