In recent years, Robert Morris football has hit a bit of a snag. Going an abysmal 1-10 last season, second-year coach John Banaszak looks to continue coaching up the young Colonial players. Mix in a rash of injuries and the inability to keep possession of the ball, Robert Morris has plenty of room for improvement.
The defense allowed 377 (34.3 per game) points while the offense could only muster 109 (9.9 per game) which would land Robert Morris in the basement of the NEC. Linebacker Mike Strojkovic will be looked upon as a needed leader for this young defense, a key component if Coach Banaszak expects his team to make noise in the NEC.
Averaging 7.5 tackles per game last season, good for 5th in the NEC, Strojkovic knows he has to inspire and lead the way for his defense.
“I have been trying to be a leader since I transferred in (to Robert Morris) a few years ago,” Strojkovic told reporters during the NEC’s Media Day this past July. “I talk to Coach Banaszak all the time about being a leader and he believes this is our team.”
The transfer student from North Texas continued, “We have to take control of the game and set the foundation for the younger guys so they know exactly what to do. Last year wasn’t expected, but it happened. It may have been a good thing for us, it shocked us, but it has also amped us up to go out and win more games.”
After being placed seventh out of seven in the NEC in preseason polling, Robert Morris has nowhere to go but up. If the Colonials have aspirations of winning more than a few games, they must regain the ability to run.
Averaging only 2.2 yards per carry last season, Robert Morris struggled mightily in having a multi-dimensional offense. However, running back Rameses “Ram” Owens was a sliver of light in that category. Averaging 4.4 yards per carry and accumulating 562 yards in 128 attempts, expect Owens to be relied on to carry the running game.
Robert Morris needs optimism, but more importantly it needs consistency, especially from the quarterback position. Freshman quarterback Matt Barr is expected to be the opening day starter for the Colonials, and there is chatter he can be the catalyst to jump start the offense.
“Matt Barr has looked really good in practice. He is a stand-up quarterback and looks very confident.” said captain Nick Faraci in a one-on-one interview. The fifth-year center continued, “We are ready to wipe the plate clean. In all my years being on this team, I have never felt this type of electricity in the locker room before.”
Faraci optimistically added, “Last year, we had no confidence, but this year I feel we’ve gotten back some swagger, we just need to take it one step at a time. The culture is changing, our ultimate goal is to win the NEC (Championship), but we can’t look past each week’s opponent.”
Looking at the Colonials schedule, there will be some challenges along the road. With an overall opponent record of 60-43 (.583), Robert Morris will face off in some intriguing match ups against Youngstown State and Notre Dame (Ohio). Of course, the game fans typically love to attend will be against Duquesne University. The rivalry will be played in Moon Township on October 24 at 6 p.m.
Robert Morris has had a lot to fix over the off-season and by all accounts the team seems more inspired than ever. Players have a chip on their shoulder and are ready to prove to the NEC and pessimistic fans that they’re ready to shake things up. If the Colonials can stay healthy and execute their gameplan, Robert Morris very well may challenge for the NEC Title.
Their season opener will take place this Saturday at noon in the newly resurfaced Joe Walton Stadium in Moon Township against the Dayton Flyers, who were referred to by Faraci as their “kryptonite”.