The Buffalo Bulls open up their 2019 football campaign against FCS opponent Robert Morris, hailing from the Pittsburgh, PA area. The Colonials play in the Northeast Conference (NEC), where they finished 0-6 in conference, good for last place. The Colonials finished 2018 2-9 overall, with their two wins coming by a combined 7 points at home against Division II teams.
Robert Morris is likely the only D1 football program that can say that a former football player had a rap album top the US charts more recently than they had a football player reach the NFL. Rapper Wale attended Robert Morris on a football scholarship in the early 2000s and most recently topped the charts in 2015. Meanwhile, Robert Morris’ last player to crack the NFL was Robb Butler in 2004, playing 5 games for the then San Diego Chargers.
While Robert Morris put up a less than stellar season in 2018, there is hope for 2019 with much of their offensive production returning. The Colonials return their top three rushers led by senior Terence Stephens Jr. who rushed for 793 yards and 4 touchdowns on 169 touches in his first year at Robert Morris after transferring from Bowling Green. In the passing game, the Colonials, like the Bulls, are looking to replace their quarterback in senior leader Jimmy Walker. Redshirt sophomore George Martin looks like the most likely candidate to replace Walker, after attempting the second most passes for the Colonials last season and seeing action in nine games. Luckily for Martin and the Colonials, most of their pass catchers are back this season with their top four receivers returning. Tight end Matthew Gonzalez led the way last season with 40 catches for 642 yards and 12 touchdowns. The wide receiver group was paced by Tim Vecchio who caught 27 passes for 276 yards.
The defense was the major problem for Robert Morris last year allowing 43.5 points per game, as well as 509.3 total yards per game and it is unclear if the Colonials will be better on that side of the ball this season after losing leading tackler Adam Wollet to graduation. With the loss of Wollet, Myles Canton is the Colonials’ leading returning tackler and play maker after racking up 57 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble from his safety position last season. The Colonials figure to struggle to rush the passer in 2019 after graduating first team all-NEC defensive lineman Amir Fenwick, the Colonials bring back no player that had more than one sack last season.
On paper Robert Morris looks to be a good opportunity for Buffalo to work out a lot of questions about holes left by graduation and transfer this off-season. However, Albany taught us a few years ago not to overlook any opponent.