Bernard Clark radiated positivity in his weekly press conference after RMU stayed level with James Madison, now ranked No. 1 in the latest FCS poll, throughout the first half of the Colonials’ first game of the season a week ago Saturday.
The third-year head coach made it evidently clear that his current team brought a much different energy to the field than his 2018 squad did when matched up against the Dukes, a game that ended in a lopsided defeat.
“Our guys understood the game they were going into this time,” Clark said. “They understood that it was the number two team in the country. They knew that this team was a good football team, but we also feel like we are a pretty good football team.”
A big reason why Robert Morris might be able to compete with the titans of the Big South moving forward is the sheer amount of talent that Clark was able to bring in via the transfer portal. The top three receivers in the loss to James Madison were transfers: Daevon Robinson, Jerry Hanks, Jr. and D’Andre Hicks.
The Colonials’ defense managed to snag three interceptions off of James Madison quarterback Cole Johnson in the first half. Forcing turnovers and limiting big plays in the opening half were positives in Clark’s eyes. Although he is refraining from getting too much of a thrill from Saturday’s effort, he notices that the gears are turning in the RMU locker room.
“They did a great job of competing,” Clark said. “Which I’m proud of, but, at the same time, no coach is excited about a moral victory. But when you feel like your team is coming together, and guys are playing hard, that makes you excited. I think our guys are fighting, which is great.”
With the season posing several challenges and areas of uncertainty, Clark realizes that there is a lot on the Colonials’ plate this season. With the James Madison gave serving as a launching point, he hopes that RMU can develop and play a full 60 minutes against Monmouth next week.
“You’ve got to take it by bits, you can’t try to jump on the whole thing at once. Everyone did their job, everyone did what was required of them. We just got outlasted.”
Behind the curtain, RMU has been working through some nagging injuries and contact tracing absences related to COVID-19. A high ankle sprain took Jacob White out of the game after his second quarter interception last week, and Tavin Harville is dealing with a hamstring injury. Clark embraces this off week as a result and hopes it can benefit the team from a physical standpoint. Mentally, Clark admits that the current time frame is a significant hurdle for the Colonials.
“It’s a situation where we can get some guys back now. As far as us being ready mentally, I think it’s a struggle. I think it’s a struggle playing in the spring anyway, because you don’t have a normal workout session that you have for summertime leading up to the season.”
Robert Morris returns to the field Saturday for its inaugural game of Big South competition for the aforementioned game with Monmouth at noon. A scarce number of fans might be in the stadium, but Clark jokingly mentioned that there is one benefit to the current situation.
“The referees were able to hear my voice when I was complaining about the calls, so I enjoyed that.”