Luke Bellman had four catches for 73 yards with a TD at Robert Morris.
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa.—The University of Dayton football team extended its winning streak to 10 games over two seasons as the Flyers pulled out a hard-fought 19-13 win at Robert Morris Saturday in the season opener for both teams. That streak is the longest active streak in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision after FCS defending champion Eastern Washington fell at Washington 30-27 in its opener.
Dayton’s defense made the difference Saturday, forcing two turnovers and sacking Robert Morris quarterback Jeff Sinclair eight times. Seven different Flyers were in on the sacks, led by Devon Langhorst's 2.5.
UD scored first on a seven-yard pass from Will Bardo to Brian Mack gave UD an early 6-0 lead. A 5-yard run by Sinclair gave the Colonials a 7-6 lead in the second quarter, but the Flyers responded with 13 straight points. A 27-yard pass from Bardo to Luke Bellman late in the second quarter gave Dayton a 13-7 halftime lead. Two field goals from Nate Miller gave the Flyers a 19-7 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Robert Morris’ only other score came on a 1-yard run by Jamar Cromwell with 5:54 to play. With Bardo cramping on the sidelines, backup QB Zach Splain came in and moved the ball into Robert Morris territory, burning up three minutes and two of the Colonials’ timeouts. Miller lifted a punt that RMU’s Anthony Miller was forced to fair catch at his own 18.
After a completion and a Dayton penalty gave Robert Morris the ball at the 28, linebacker Bryan Bailin batted away a pass, defensive tackle Brannon Dunn had his second sack of the day, and two downfield incomplete passes later the Flyers had the ball with 1:50 left. UD needed three plays to run out the clock and take its ninth straight win over Robert Morris, the defending Northeast Conference champion who played in the FCS playoffs last year.
Bardo, a redshirt freshman playing in his first game, let alone his first start, was 14 of 24 for 180 yards and two TD's. If Bardo got the win as the starter, Splain came in to get the save, completing all five of his passes for 32 yards. Tyler Hujik caught five passes for 40 yards to lead UD in receptions. Bellman had four for 73 yards and the TD, Jordan Boykin added four for 65 and Branden Johnson had three for 15.
Safety Steve Wirkus led the Dayton defensive effort with nine hits, including seven solo tackles. His acrobatic interception late in the first half set up UD’s go-ahead touchdown, and he also batted down a pass at the goal line that prevented Robert Morris from scoring on its final possession of the third quarter.
But the tone was set by the front seven. Facing an offensive line that returned four starters from last year’s playoff team, the Flyers had the eight sacks, two QB hurries and forced four holding penalties.
Dayton’s next game is the 2011 home opener. The last team to defeat the Flyers, the Duquesne Dukes, will visit Welcome Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10. Game time is 1 p.m. ET.
Photos courtesy of Jason Cohn.