Fargo, N.D. – September 1, 2012 – The Robert Morris University football team dropped its 2012 season opener Saturday night as defending national champion and preseason No. 1/2 North Dakota State claimed a 52-0 non-conference decision at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
Playing in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 18,769, the largest crowd that RMU has ever competed in front of, the host Bison used good field position throughout the game to launch a number of short scoring drives. In fact, North Dakota State had only one drive longer than 55 yards that resulted in points.
Senior safety Cameron Chadwick (Vista, Calif. / College of Canyons) led the Robert Morris defense by posting a game-high 12 tackles, including one tackle for a loss, and a pass breakup. It marked the fourth time in Chadwick’s past seven games that he recorded double-figure tackles.
Linebacker Mike Cook (Victoria, Minn. / Eden Prarie (Winona State)) netted eight tackles, including four of the solo variety, along with forcing a Bison fumble inside the red zone, his first-ever forced fumble. Defensive lineman Connor Sullivan (Washington, D.C. / St. John’s) recovered the fumble that Cook forced, also marking his first-career recovery.
North Dakota State received the opening kickoff and marched 76 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown, a drive that concluded with a one-yard pass from Brock Jensen to Taylor Nelsen.
After Robert Morris was forced to punt on its first possession, NDSU took over with great field position at the RMU 31-yard line. However, the Colonial defense stood strong as it allowed the Bison just five yards on four plays as both Chadwick and Zach Washington (Farmington Hills, Mich. / North Farmington) contributed pass breakups, forcing the Bison into a long field goal attempt which they missed.
RMU earned a first down on the next drive, getting the ball close to midfield, before it was forced to punt. The Bison then drove down the field but were promptly stopped when Cook ripped the ball loose to force a turnover.
John Crockett made the score 14-0 on a 26-yard scamper down the sideline early in the second quarter, and Adam Keller added a field goal late in the half to set the score at 17-0 at intermission.
Robert Morris actually held advantages in time of possession and third-down conversions in the first half but had nothing to show for it.
North Dakota State broke the game open in the third quarter as the hosts scored three times in the first 10 minutes of the frame.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Layman (Hilton Head, S.C. / Hilton Head Prep) completed 10 passes on 21 attempts before he was forced to leave the game due to injury. Sophomore wide receiver Duane Mitchell (Monroe Falls, Ohio / Stow) collected the first three receptions of his career to aid the receiving corps.
Junior Evan Taylor (Redding, Calif. / Shasta), who earned his first-career start after moving over from the defensive side of the ball in the offseason, registered 35 yards on 18 carries along with a reception. Sophomore fullback Ryan Thermil (Fort Washington, Md. / St. Joseph’s & St. Agnes) saw his first-ever collegiate action and tallied eight yards on three carries.
The shutout by North Dakota State marked just the fourth such occasion that RMU failed to score in the 187 games in program history.
True freshman quarterback Derik Abbott (Orlando, Fla. / Freedom) was forced to enter the game when Layman came up with an injury in the third quarter. Five Colonials–Nick Faraci (McDonald, Pa. / South Fayette), Mike Neilson (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Pittsburgh Central Catholic), Andrew Smith (Cranberry Township, Pa. / Seneca Valley), Taylor and Washington–earned their first start in a RMU uniform Saturday night. In all, 13 Colonials saw the field for the first time while representing Robert Morris.
Robert Morris will have another challenge next Saturday, Sept. 8, as it opens its home schedule by facing defending Northeast Conference (NEC) champion Albany at Joe Walton Stadium. The opening kickoff is slated for Noon.
Photo Credits: RMU