Robert Morris sputtered out in the second half of its season opener against James Madison on Saturday afternoon, falling 36-16.
The Colonials (0-1) kept JMU’s leading rusher Percy Agyei-Obese in check during the first half, holding him to just 16 yards from scrimmage in the opening half.
However, his two touchdowns in the second half allowed JMU to outscore RMU 20-0. The Dukes offense as a whole began flourishing in the second half, out gaining Robert Morris by 184 yards in the final 30 minutes of action.
James Madison (2-0) held the Colonials to just 24 yards of offense in the second half and 184 yards overall. Offensively, they made plays when necessary and utilized their ground game in the second half to slam the door shut.
Offensive mistakes were responsible for all of the scoring during the first 20 minutes of play. It started when the Colonials were backed up in their own territory with 8:41 to play in the opening quarter. A high snap slid through the hands of quarterback George Martin and rolled out of the back of the endzone for a safety to give James Madison a 2-0 lead.
The Dukes were eager to keep momentum on their side, which led to the offense staying out on fourth down on their next drive. Quarterback Cole Johnson scattered towards the chains, but was brought down just short of the marker by Aniello Buzzacco.
That failed conversion would become the least of Johnson’s problems. On the very next drive, Aaron Green jumped a route and picked off the JMU quarterback to give RMU excellent field position. Fortunately, for the Dukes, Martin and company couldn’t find much success on offense either, and the Colonials settled for a field goal that put them in front 3-2.
After Tiheem Crocker picked off Johnson when JMU’s offense went out for its next series, it appeared as if RMU wasted another opportunity to score six points after Alijah Jackson was stuffed on third down from the one yard line. Having some extra time to think about it due to the quarters changing, Bernard Clark kept his offense on the field. This time, Jackson cut to the right and took some contact as he scored the Colonials first touchdown of the season.
RMU held a 9-2 lead after an odd two point conversion try to kicker Nick Bisceglia ended with a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and a false start penalty.
JMU caught its first break in quite some time on a punt when the returner appeared to be shielding his eyes from the sun before swinging his arm down and getting tackled immediately by an RMU defender. The referee saw the arm movement as a signal for a fair catch, meaning that the Dukes started their drive well into RMU’s half of the field. Johnson wasted no time in shaking off his bad possessions, as he rolled out to the right and threw a bullet to an open Kris Thornton for a 33-yard touchdown that allowed the Dukes to tie the game.
Coincidentally, RMU’s offense heated immediately after the JMU touchdown. Martin connected with D’Andre Hicks and Daevon Robinson throughout the drive before Jerry Hanks, Jr. capped off the series by bringing in a one-handed reception for his first career touchdown to give RMU the lead back, 16-7.
After an unsuccessful drive following Johnson’s third interception of the day, Robert Morris had no response for the Dukes offense while they ran their two minute offense in the closing moments of the first half. Johnson made quick throws and utilized his legs to keep the ball moving before finally hitting Antwane Wells, Jr for a touchdown.
That score sent the teams to the half locked at 16.
A nine play drive that went for 75 yards was marked as complete when Percy Agyei-Obese took some contact before twisting into the endzone from 7 yards out to put JMU up 23-16.
With both offenses stalling on their next drives, Jackson attempted to extend the play on the Colonials’ next possession, but only assisted JMU in extending its lead after Ethan Ratke connected on a 26-yard field goal that made the deficit 10 points.
George Martin began feeling the heat when dropping back to pass due to the JMU pass rush finally navigating its way through the experienced RMU offensive line that made little to no mistakes in the first half. That pass rush and inability to move the ball on the ground made the Colonials’ offense nonexistent in the second half. So much so, that it felt like the Colonials were out of the game long before Agyei-Obese’s second touchdown of the game came along in the final minutes.
George Martin completed 15 of 30 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. Alijah Jackson ran for 49 yards and a touchdown, in addition to a fumble. Transfer receivers D’Andre Hicks and Daevon Robinson led RMU in receiving with 98 combined yards.
RMU takes the field in two weeks for its Big South opener against Monmouth at Joe Walton Stadium.