FAIRFIELD, CT (November 10, 2012) – Robert Morris quarterback Jeff Sinclair hit Nick Groat for a touchdown on fourth and one with 35 seconds left as the Colonials erased a 17-6 Sacred Heart fourth quarter lead and steal a 21-17 win on Campus Field Saturday afternoon. The Colonials never led Saturday until Sinclair hit a wide open Groat in the end zone on a fourth and one from the SHU two-yard line.
For three quarters, the Pioneers controlled the game defensively, eight RMU punts, three turnovers and holding the Colonials to just 81 yards of total offense. The fourth quarter was a different story all together for the Pioneers, thanks in part a lack of offense.
Robert Morris (4-6, 3-4 NEC) ran 23 plays in the final quarter, racking up 189 yards of offense and a pair of scores. The Pioneers had just 55 yards on offense and were 0-for-4 on third down. Overall, SHU had 298 yards of offense but were two-of-17 on third down and punted a season-high 10 times in the loss.
SHU dominated the first quarter, holding the Colonials to -10 yards of total offense while opening up a 7-0 lead. SHU's defensive unit forced three-and-outs on Robert Morris' first three possessions and the offense took advantage when they got the football on the Colonial 41 yard line with 5:01 on the clock.
The Pioneers picked-up a fourth down on the drive as sophomore running back Keshaudas Spence (Dorchester, MA) set up SHU first and goal on the four yard line. The Pioneers opened the scoring on the next play as r-junior quarterback Luke Wischnowski (West Chester, PA) hit fullback Pat Casey (Berlin, NJ) who tucked the ball inside the pylon for six.
SHU had a chance to extend their lead further on their next drive as Wischnowski led a 10-play drive and the Pioneers set up with first and goal on the 10-yard line. After Spence was stopped at the one on first down, SHU went to Casey on the next two plays but the burly fullback was stood up twice for no gain. The Pioneers were forced to settle for an 18-yard field goal from Connor Frizzell (Griswald, CT) and a 10-0 lead with 10:09 left in the half.
After a fifth-straight three-and-out on offense, the Colonials finally got some offense untracked and found points. RMU's defense forced a SHU punt out of their own end zone and got great field position at the SHU 32 yard line. The RMU drive stalled out on the SHU seven but a 24-yard field goal by Greg Langer got the Colonials on the board, down 10-7. Langer hit again on Robert Morris' first possession of the second half, finishing off a five play drive with a 27-yarder. The big play on the drive came on a 65-yard bolt by Evan Taylor on first down to the SHU 15-yard line.
The Pioneer offense struggled mightily in the second half, producing just 87 yards of offense and no points. Sacred Heart's only score came on a turnover as J.D. Roussel (Pawtucket, RI) picked-off a tipped Sinclair pass and returned it 14-yards for six and a 17-6 lead with 7:44 left in the third. It was Roussel's second pick-six this season.
The Colonial defense continued to give the ball back to the offense in the second half and early in the fourth quarter they responded. Sinclair took his team down the field in 10-plays to cut the lead to three with 9:32 left. The drive got kick-started when wide receiver Donte Jeter took a reverse 38-yards to the Pioneer 35 yard line. Sinclair found D.J. Pearson on third and goal from the four and then hit him again after a scramble for the two-point conversion.
It looked as if turnovers would kill any hope of a Robert Morris comeback when Sinclair threw his fourth interception of the afternoon with 4:24 left. SHU's Dennis Regan (Philadelphia, PA) hauled in a toss on the right sideline and was forced out of bounds at the SHU 44-yard line.
The SHU offense could not put the game away, forced to punt after a three and out. Spence ripped off seven yards on first down but a holding call on second and short pushed the Pioneers back and they were forced to give the ball back to the Colonials.
Sinclair made SHU pay for it, getting the ball back with 2:57 left and 82-yards to cover. On first down, the senior signal caller hit Paul Evans for 41-yards and right into SHU territory. He found Duane Mitchell for 19-yard to the SHU 11 and saved his biggest throw of the day for fourth down. Facing a fourth and one on the SHU two, the Colonials could have settled for a field goal and try to force overtime, but head coach Joe Walton went for the win.
On a play action pass, Sinclair waited for running back Groat to clear into the flat where he lobbed a pass that resulted in the winning score with just 35 seconds left to play. SHU's attempt at a last second heave was picked-off by C Chadwick as time expired.
The Pioneer defense added to their league-leading sack total with four on Sinclair, led by junior linebacker Justin Sexton (Murrieta, CA) who had 1.5. Sexton finished the game with 11 total tackles. Senior Niko Sierra (Longmeadow, MA) finished with nine tackles in the loss.
Wischnowski completed 14-of-33 passes for 160 yards, a score and two picks. Spence finished the game with 113 yards on 21 carries, his second 100-yard game this season.
The Pioneers will close out the 2012 season next Saturday at Saint Francis (PA). Kick-off is at 12 noon.