LORETTO - It was something none of 1,736 fans in attendance at the Robert Morris-St. Francis game Saturday could dream would happen - a defensive battle occurred.
Fortunately, the Red Flash were able to come out victorious, topping Robert Morris, 10-3, in a Northeastern Conference game at DeGol Field.
"After losing a close game last week, it was nice to win a close one like this," Red Flash coach Chris Villarrial said. "In my four years as coach, I've never seen our defense play as well as it did today."
It was almost eerie how similar the two programs began the game, with the Red Flash putting together a 12-play, 62-yard drive. They had four first downs, but squandered it when A.J. Alexander fumbled the ball on the Robert Morris 10-yard line and turned the ball over.
The Colonials answered with a 13-play drive that included four first downs as well. They drove all the way to the Red Flash 20, before turning the ball over on downs.
After the scoreless first quarter, the Red Flash got on the scoreboard with 12:06 left in the second quarter, on a 50-yard touchdown pass from John Kelly to Anthony Abeid.
It was Abeid's first career touchdown. Josh Thiel followed with a successful PAT. And after a 44-yard field goal by Robert Morris kicker Greg Langer, the Red Flash were able to answer immediately back with a 33-yard field goal by Thiel as time expired in the first half.
The third quarter featured two punts by St. Francis and a pair of punts and a fumble by the Colonials that was recovered by the Red Flash.
The fourth quarter began with a deep pass to Abeid that looked like it was going to be his second long touchdown reception but ended up being a fumble.
A few possessions later, the Red Flash were lining up to punt on fourth down, but a poor snap allowed Robert Morris to start the possession in St. Francis territory. Once again, the Red Flash defense stepped up and kept the Colonials out of the end zone. Although it might have seemed at times that the Red Flash were trying to give the win to the Colonials, they were able to hold on.
"We knew it was going to be a dogfight," Red Flash senior running back Keion Wade said. "Our defense had a heck of an effort."
The Red Flash were able to outgain Robert Morris 312-284 in total offense, but the Red Flash definitely had a turnover bug - fumbling four times and losing three of those.
"We left points on the board for sure," Villarrial said. "We need to clean things up on offense."
Wade was the workhorse for Villarrial, carrying 21 times for 95 yards, and often against stacked boxes.
The Red Flash, which ended a six-game losing streak to the Colonials including a 45-14 loss in Pittsburgh last year, will be back in action next week at Albany. Albany is unbeaten in 13 games against the Red Flash and currently lead the NEC with a 3-0 record.
"Albany is a very dangerous team," Villarrial said. "They're playing with a lot of confidence. It will be a test."
Robert Morris fell to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the NEC.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Robert Morris0300 - 3
St. Francis 01000 -10
StF-Abeid 50 pass from Kelly (Thiel kick), 12:06.
RobM-FG Langer 44, :34.
StF-FG Thiel 33, :00.
Time of Possession31:5428:06
RUSHING-Robert Morris, E.Taylor 25-133, Sinclair 9-17, Groat 3-14, Howard 3-7, Thermil 1-0. St. Francis, Wade 21-95, Kelly 12-51, Ingram 1-5, Alexander 2-(-10), TEAM 2-(-19).
PASSING-Robert Morris, Sinclair 10-28-1-113, TEAM 0-1-0-0. St. Francis, Kelly 9-19-0-190, Alexander 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING-Robert Morris, D.Mitchell 3-35, Evans 2-45, Howard 2-6, Pirl 1-14, Jeter 1-11, Groat 1-2. St. Francis, Abeid 3-116, Wade 3-44, Wasilewski 1-12, Conley 1-10, Domonkos 1-8.