Duquesne has climbed atop the Northeast Conference standings this season riding an offense that is averaging a league-best 35 points per game.
For the second consecutive week Saturday, it was the defense that kept the Dukes there.
Just one week after notching its first shutout of the season, Duquesne forced two fourth-quarter turnovers to knock off Wagner, 34-26, Saturday at Hameline Field at Wagner College Stadium in Staten Island, New York, and claim at least a share of its sixth regular-season conference championship in program history.
“The last couple of weeks they’ve really been playing team defense, rallying to the football,” said Jerry Schmitt, now in his 19th season coaching the Dukes. “Communication is huge. They’ve been changing some things schematically, some preparing for the other opponent, but some overcoming injuries.
“The defensive staff is doing a great job putting guys in positions to battle,” he added. “We’ve got some guys that just get to the ball. They were committed to keeping them out of the end zone.”
Duquesne (6-3, 5-0) is off to its best start in conference since joining the NEC in 2008, largely thanks to inspired play by its defense over the past two weeks on the road.
After holding Wagner (3-6, 3-3) to just six first-half points, redshirt junior linebacker Khatavian Franks forced a critical turnover when he returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown that handed the Dukes a 28-20 lead they would not relinquish with 10:22 left in the game.
The Dukes then broke up a potential game-tying 2-point conversion pass attempt by Seahawks quarterback Steven Krajewski with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter before senior defensive lineman Ryan Lopez returned a fumble 24 yards for a score as time expired to cement the win.
Linebackers Jayden Johnson and Jason Patterson each recorded nine tackles against Wagner, while Pitt transfer Noah Palmer, a Thomas Jefferson product, had eight tackles with 1½ sacks.
“Just a real gutty win,” Schmitt said. “They just played hard, kept their focus through the game, grinding this thing out. I don’t know that we played our best across the board, and sometimes when that happens you just have to grind out and scratch for everything you can. I thought our kids did a really good job of that.”
Only seven days earlier, Duquesne held Sacred Heart to just 179 yards of total offense — 96 on the ground and 83 through the air — to claim a 27-0 conference victory.
“They keep building off of last week, that was an amazing shutout,” Duquesne junior quarterback Darius Perrantes said. “They did a great job this week preparing for Wagner. Wagner did some great things, but our team played together. The defense did an incredible job making big plays when needed.”
So, too, did Perrantes and freshman running back Edward Robinson.
Perrantes passed for 248 yards, with a touchdown and interception. He connected with Darryl Powell Jr. five times for a game-high 111 yards, while also finding Tedy Afful two times for 52 yards and a score.
“Wagner did a lot of great things messing with my eyes, trying to do the best that they can with that,” Perrantes said. “Honestly, just having trust in my receivers and my o-line, they put me in the best position to deliver the ball wherever it needs to be.”
Robinson rushed for a team-high 80 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He was forced into heavier action with running back JaMario Clements unable to play because of an injury and Taj Butts only able to carry the football three times Saturday with an injury of his own.
“For a true freshman, we’ve been working him in there, and he’s had some good games with the other guys,” said Schmitt of Robinson. “When those two couldn’t go, he had to step up and be the guy. I give him a ton of credit. I think it’s awesome for him.
“He took it on. We kept saying about getting him a break. It’s tough to take him out. He’s got that kind of talent.”
Robinson scored on a 3-yard run in the second quarter and an 11-yard rush in the fourth quarter.
“That’s my boy,” Perrantes said. “He’s very young. He’s very raw. He just knows what to do when he gets the ball in his hands. It all comes down to our o-line, though, they did a good job with the defensive line and creating lanes for Eddie.”
Duquesne will host Stonehill (3-5, 2-3) at noon Saturday at Arthur J. Rooney Field with a chance to clinch an outright NEC regular-season title.
“It’s just staying in our heads,” Perrantes said. “Obviously, we get a big head knowing that we are the leaders of the pack. Just coming in every day knowing there’s a championship on the line, I mean, nobody could ask for more. This is what we want. We want people chasing our backs.
“This is a great opportunity for our team and our university. So I’m very happy.”
Robert Morris picks up its third win of the season in final road game
Quarterback Anthony Chiccitt, a Bethel Park graduate, passed for 232 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, as Robert Morris earned a hard-fought, 21-20 Big South-OVC victory Saturday by upsetting Southeast Missouri State at Houck Stadium in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Chiccitt, who also rushed for 14 yards and a score, connected with tight end Chaese Jackson for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 2:39 left in the third quarter, which held up as the game-winning score for the Colonials (3-6, 1-3) against the Redhawks (4-5, 3-1).
Robert Morris receiver Noah Robinson caught a game-high 11 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown.
Pitt hangs tough but falls to No. 4 Florida State
Pitt quarterback Christian Veilleux passed for 244 yards, with a touchdown and an interception and the Panthers remained within just a three-point deficit in the third quarter, but No. 4 Florida State eventually flexed its muscles and emerged with a commanding 24-7 Atlantic Coast Conference victory Saturday at Acrisure Stadium.
Heisman trophy candidate Jordan Travis threw for 360 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for another score, for the Seminoles (9-0, 7-0). He connected with receiver Ja’Khi Douglas six times for 115 yards.
Florida State running back Trey Benson also rushed for 97 yards and a score.
Receivers Konata Mumpfield caught three passes for 99 yards to lead the Panthers (2-7, 1-4) offensive attack, while Bub Means had seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
No. 5 Slippery Rock remains unbeaten with rout of Edinboro
No. 5 Slippery Rock gashed Edinboro for 670 yards of total offense to remain undefeated and close out its Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division slate Saturday with a 56-18 victory at Sox Harrison Stadium in Edinboro.
The Rock (10-0, 7-0) gained 413 yards through the air and 257 on the ground against the Fighting Scots (2-8, 1-6).
Quarterback Brayden Long completed 23-of-27 passes for 400 yards and five touchdowns for Slippery Rock. He completed five passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns to receiver Cohen Russell, and also found Kyle Sheets five times for 104 yards and a score.
Tight end Nathan Waltman and Tony Grimes, a Penn Hills graduate, also caught touchdown passes for the Rock.
Running back Khalid Dorsey led Slippery Rock on the ground with 92 yards and a touchdown, while Chris D’Or chipped in 48 yards and a score.
Slippery Rock, the five-time defending PSAC West Division champion, will face Kutztown (8-2, 7-0) in the PSAC championship game at noon Saturday at Andre Reed Stadium in Kutztown. The PSAC East champion Golden Bears went undefeated in its division but fell to No. 23 Assumption and California University of Pennsylvania in consecutive games to open the season.
California keeps hopes alive for at-large playoff bid with win against Gannon
Freshman running back Bobby Boyd Jr., a McKeesport graduate, rushed for a game-high 100 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries as California University of Pennsylvania never trailed Saturday in defeating host Gannon, 34-17, in a PSAC West game at McConnell Family Stadium in Erie.
The Vulcans (7-2, 6-1) outgained the Knights (5-5, 5-2) on the ground, 250-63. Eric McKan III also rushed for 86 yards for California, while Isaiah Cameron rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Davis Black threw for 200 yards, including a touchdown and an interception for the Vulcans, while also rushing for 16 yards and a score.
California will close out the regular season Saturday at East Stroudsburg (8-2, 5-2) looking for a win that could keep the Vulcans alive for an at-large bid to the NCAA Division II playoffs.
IUP gets right on the road against Clarion
Indiana University of Pennsylvania rushed for 276 yards and three touchdowns, as the Crimson Hawks ended a two-game losing skid with a 39-27 PSAC West road victory Saturday against Clarion at Memorial Stadium.
Redshirt sophomore running back Adam Houser rushed for a game-high 103 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries for IUP (5-5, 3-4), while Dayjure Stewart also contributed 78 yards and a score on the ground against an overmatched Golden Eagles (2-8, 1-6) defense.
Crimson Hawks quarterback Karst Hunter completed 18-of-28 passes for 289 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 95 yards and a score on 11 carries.
Receiver Hilton Ridley caught a game-high seven passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns for IUP, while Quinn Zinobile hauled in four passes for 86 yards and a score.
Freshman defensive end Cole Weightman, a Belle Vernon graduate, had five tackles and three sacks for the Crimson Hawks, and junior defensive back Darius Bruce, a Westinghouse product, had five tackles and two sacks.
Junior receiver Corahn Alleyne led Clarion’s offense with four catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
Seton Hill grinds out victory at Mercyhurst
Connellsville native Ky’Ron Craggette and Greensburg Salem graduate Cody Rubrecht found the end zone for Seton Hill, which held host Mercyhurst scoreless Saturday to secure a 14-0 PSAC West victory at Saxon Stadium in Erie.
Craggette opened the scoring with a 43-yard first-quarter touchdown run, while Rubrecht caught a 30-yard scoring strike from Griffins (5-5, 4-3) quarterback Jake Cruz against the Lakers (2-8, 1-6).
Seton Hill, which rushed for 225 total yards, was led by running back Bryce Dare’s 99 yards on 21 carries.
Carnegie Mellon defense holds Westminster to minus-16 rushing yards in win
Carnegie Mellon’s defense frustrated Westminster — holding the host Titans to minus-16 yards rushing and racking up three sacks and a turnover — en route to earning a 21-7 Presidents’ Athletic Conference victory Saturday at Memorial Field inside Harold Burry Stadium in New Wilmington.
Moon graduate Logan Young recorded a team-high nine tackles and ½ sack for Carnegie Mellon (8-1) against Westminster (5-4), while Evan Roper had six tackles and two sacks.
Tartans quarterback Ben Mills threw for 111 yards and touchdown passes to Dominic Voiland and Ethan Reifer
Running back Tre Vasiliadis rushed for a game-high 64 yards for Carnegie Mellon, while Will Squibb rushed for 20 yards and a score.
Westminster quarterback Ty McGowan, a Moon product, completed 28-of-54 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown.
Washington & Jefferson offense explodes for win at Geneva
Washington & Jefferson scored 38 unanswered points over the final three quarters Saturday, as the Presidents cruised to a 45-7 PAC victory against Geneva at Reeves Field in Beaver Falls.
Thomas Jefferson graduate Jacob Pugh threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns to lead the W&J (7-2) offense, which outgained Geneva (4-5) in total offense, 427-204.
The Presidents had seven players carry the football and rack up 217 yards, led by Owen Petrisek, a Bentworth graduate, who rushed for a game-high 68 yards. Bethel Park product Troy Volpatti and Kellen Stahl also rushed for scores for the Presidents.
John Peduzzi caught four passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns for W&J, which also got a game-high seven catches for 65 yards and a score from Peters Township product Jacob Macosko.
Zayne Cawley leads Waynesburg to second win
Sophomore running back Zayne Cawley carried the football 41 times for 336 yards and four touchdowns, as Waynesburg went on the road and defeated winless Bethany, 35-26, Saturday in a PAC game at Bison Stadium in Bethany, West Virginia.
Cawley scored on runs of 43, 2, 21 and 9 yards to lead the Yellow Jackets (2-7) ground attack against the Bisons (0-9).
Charleroi graduate Dakota Romantino had five receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown for Waynesburg.