Conference unbeatens Robert Morris, Duquesne set for NEC football clash
This is new territory for the Robert Morris football team: a November home game against rival Duquesne with first place in the Northeast Conference on the line.
Both teams enter Saturday’s 1 p.m. matchup with 4-0 league records.
The Colonials (5-4 overall) went 2-9 each of the past three seasons and entered the year on a 14-game conference losing streak. Second-year coach Bernard Clark Jr. has orchestrated the rebuilding effort.
“We’ve got to play with composure above everything else,” Clark said. “We can’t get caught up in the moment. The moment is a little bit bigger than it’s been in the past.”
Defending conference champion Duquesne (6-2) reached the second round of the FCS playoffs last season.
“It’s great for the city of Pittsburgh to highlight our level of football here,” said Dukes coach Jerry Schmitt, whose team has won six straight in the series.
Although Duquesne has plenty of big-game experience, its quarterback likely will be making his first collegiate start. Senior Brett Brumbaugh, a South Fayette graduate who is Pennsylvania’s all-time leader with 11,084 passing yards, is expected to play in place of Daniel Parr, who injured his collarbone last week.
Expect the Dukes to lean on its senior running back duo of All-American A.J. Hines (620 rushing yards, four touchdowns) and Penn State transfer Mark Allen (538 yards, four touchdowns). Allen ranks second in the conference with 126.1 all-purpose yards per game.
Robert Morris features the NEC’s second-leading rusher, sophomore Alijah Jackson (826 yards, four touchdowns), as well as All-American tight end Matthew Gonzalez (27 catches, 454 yards, four touchdowns).
“This is one I definitely want because it’s a rivalry, the battle of Pittsburgh, and I haven’t won it in three years,” Gonzalez said. “We all know what to do and the job that has to be done. This Saturday, I think we’re going to put it all together.”
Central Connecticut State (8-1, 4-0) also is tied for first place, and Robert Morris and Duquesne face the Blue Devils in the coming weeks. However, Saturday’s winner will control its destiny in the conference race.
“There’s a ton of things these guys haven’t done,” Clark said. “That’s why when people ask me if this is a milestone game, I’m not sure it’s a milestone game. There’s just so many things these guys haven’t done.”
Jeff Vella is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .