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Colonials ring Liberty's bell
Joe Walton surveyed the scene inside the stadium bearing his name and laughed.
“I’m as shocked as anyone else,” the Robert Morris head coach said. “But I’m pleased. Now we have to run the table on the Northeast Conference.”
Walton’s Colonials upset No. 14 Liberty 30-23 in a non-conference game that players and coaches are hailing as the biggest win in the program’s 17-year history.
“This is the best football team that we’ve played,” Walton said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Sinclair engineered his second game-winning drive in two weeks, taking Robert Morris 80 yards in 57 seconds to give RMU the lead. Sinclair, who took over as starter for the final seven games last year, was 4-for-5 on the final drive, including three straight completions to tight end Shadrae King, to take the Colonials down to the 12-yard line. Myles Russ scored on a 12-yard run to put Robert Morris ahead.
“He’s growing up,” Russ said of Sinclair. “I’m so proud of him to come in as a freshman and now in his sophomore year, he’s growing before our eyes and becoming a leader.”
Sinclair completed 13 of 21 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s much better throwing the ball this year because he knows his reads better,” Walton said. “There are a lot of things he’s improved on, but you can’t improve on being a competitor.
Safety Michael Landers sealed the win when he intercepted Liberty’s Mike Brown by wrestling the ball away from receiver Chris Summers in the end zone.
“We both had it and he tried to take it away as we came down,” Landers said. “But I wasn’t letting him have it.”
It was the second time Robert Morris faced a ranked opponent, and both games came at Joe Walton Stadium. In 2006, RMU beat then No. 19 Central Connecticut State 23-17 in a conference game that lasted two overtimes.
“If we want to make the playoffs and try to win, these are the teams that we’re going to have to play,” Russ said. “It’s definitely the biggest win in Robert Morris history.”
Russ finished the day with 229 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, including a 67-yard touchdown catch that opened the scoring. Liberty tied the game on the next drive, but Robert Morris took a 14-10 lead into halftime. The Flames took their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Ervin Garner, but Russ scored from 4-yards out to give the Colonials a 23-20 lead.
“We saw on film that they were big, but they were kind of slow,” he said. “So I got on the outside and the receivers did a great job of blocking downfield so I could get some extra yards.
Liberty had three cracks at the RMU end zone from the Robert Morris 13 yard line but had to settle for a Matt Bevins field goal to tie the game and set up the Colonials’ winning drive.
By Andrew Chiapazzi, Beaver County Times