Duquesne linebacker Gianni Rizzo and his teammates are not going to panic.

Despite failing to clinch an outright Northeast Conference championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA FCS playoffs with a 33-28 loss to Stonehill Saturday afternoon at Arthur J. Rooney Field, the 2019 Norwin graduate said he and his teammates retreated to their locker room and had a frank discussion about the state of affairs in their program with one critical game remaining in the regular season.

“We know where we’re at in the conference,” Rizzo said. “We still know what’s on the line. We’re going to watch the film. Obviously, it hurts that we lost it here and they came and they’re celebrating on our field.

“The reality of it is this is going to be motivation. So now we have to go do the same thing to Merrimack and take it home there.”

Duquesne receiver Keshawn Brown made an 89-yard touchdown reception Saturday afternoon against Stonehill at Arthur J. Rooney Field. (Courtesy of Fred Vuich)

First-place Duquesne (6-4, 5-1) clinched at least a share of its second NEC title since joining the conference in 2008 with a come-from-behind victory on the road at Wagner’s Staten Island, New York, campus a week ago. The victory gave the Dukes their first 5-0 start in NEC play since becoming a member of the conference.

The reality of the situation after falling to Stonehill (4-5, 3-3) is Duquesne must now travel to Andover, Massachusetts, next week and defeat NEC second-place Merrimack (5-5, 4-2) to wrap up an outright conference championship and automatic FCS postseason berth. Kickoff for both teams’ regular-season finale is set for noon.

“There’s no quit,” Rizzo said. “We actually were just talking about this in the locker room — this team has been through it all — travel issues, fighting from behind, game-winning field goals, defensive touchdowns. We’ve seen it all. We’re a battle-tested unit. This is just another bump in the road.

“We’ll be ready,” he added. “We really fight through adversity. We know what it feels like. Nothing surprises us at this point. We’ll just take that with us.”

Duquesne fought through plenty of adversity Saturday, surrendering turnovers on consecutive possessions to open the game and falling behind by 17 points in the first quarter.

Stonehill opened the scoring with a 22-yard field goal by kicker Perry Shelbred on the game’s opening drive before a fumble by Dukes quarterback Darius Perrantes on his team’s own 13-yard line set up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Skyhawks quarterback Ashur Carahha to receiver Jake Newsham.

The Dukes’ deficit ballooned to 17-0 when freshman running back Edward Robinson fumbled the football and Stonehill senior linebacker Justin Waters returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.

“Obviously, it was different for us to be down like that,” Duquesne coach Jerry Schmitt said. “We were talking on the sideline about playing 60 minutes. It’s a long game. We fought back into it.”

Duquesne outscored Stonehill, 21-3, over the remainder of the first half to take a 21-20 advantage into the break. The Dukes got a 2-yard touchdown from running back JaMario Clements, an 89-yard scoring strike from Perrantes to Keshawn Brown and a 34-yard run to pay dirt by Perrantes during that span.

“Once we got back we felt good,” Schmitt said. “We came out of the locker room at halftime in the lead, but we didn’t execute on offense in that third quarter.”

Duquesne failed to score in the third quarter, while the Skyhawks got a 1-yard touchdown run from Zavion Woodard to regain the lead, 26-21.

Although Robinson would score a 2-yard touchdown to give the Dukes a 28-27 lead with 2:45 remaining in the game, Stonehill went right down the field and notched the game-winning touchdown with 50 seconds remaining on a 21-yard run by Chris Domercant.

Duquesne would drive to the Skyhawks’ 35-yard line but had two potential game-winning touchdown passes fail to produce a score inside the game’s final 10 seconds.

“We did not play our best football game,” Schmitt said. “I give a lot of credit to Stonehill. They came down here in an away game and played good enough football to win the game.”

Perrantes completed just 9-of-25 passes for 298 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also rushed for 29 yards.

Brown finished with two receptions for 103 yards.

Duquesne coach Jerry Schmitt instructs his players during Saturday afternoon’s game against Stonehill at Arthur J. Rooney Field. (Courtesy of Brandon Reed)

The Skyhawks offense was paced by running back Jermaine Corbett, who gained 108 yards on 21 carries, before being ejected in the third quarter after taking two personal-foul penalties.

“It’s a team game,” said Rizzo, who finished with 11 tackles and 1½ sacks. “Obviously, we went down quick in the first quarter. We can’t do that as a team. We have to stay focused. The feeling is, next week. You’d love to win a game here at home for the conference championship. We made that opportunity for ourselves, but the beauty of it is we’ve got a game next week to play the real championship against one and two in the conference.”

For Rizzo, who played the 2022 season at Duquesne after transferring from Youngstown State, the chance to compete in the FCS playoffs would be the ultimate prize.

“The FCS bid would mean everything,” he said. “You obviously want to go undefeated in conference, but the biggest thing is we win the conference. We win the conference, we take it to the FCS playoffs and take it one win at a time.”

Robert Morris knocks off Charleston Southern for second straight victory

Freshman quarterback Zach Tanner scored fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 1 and 25 yards to lead Robert Morris to a 14-12 victory against Charleston Southern Saturday at Joe Walton Stadium in Moon.

Tanner finished with 41 yards passing and 64 on the ground to lead the Colonials (4-6, 2-3) past the Big South-OVC foe, Buccaneers (4-6, 2-3).

DJ Moyer also had 82 yards on 15 carries for Robert Morris.

Quarterback Isaiah Bess threw for 227 yards and one touchdown for Charleston Southern. He completed a game-high eight passes for 204 yards and a score to Noah Jennings.

Slippery Rock receiver Kyle Sheets caught his team’s lone touchdown in the PSAC championship game at Kutztown Saturday afternoon. (Courtesy of Slippery Rock athletics)

No. 4 Slippery Rock routed for first loss of season in PSAC championship game

No. 4 Slippery Rock conceded 275 rushing yards and its offense failed to record a first down in the first quarter Saturday, as the Rock was dominated from the outset of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship game to the tune of a 31-7 loss to host Kutztown at Andre Reed Stadium.

With its loss to the PSAC East champion Golden Bears (9-2), PSAC West champion Slippery Rock (10-1) will now have to wait for its NCAA Division II postseason fate to be revealed Sunday when the division’s bracket will be released at 6 p.m. The Rock entered the game ranked No. 1 in the region but dropped from that spot when Tiffin (11-0) knocked off Findlay (7-4) in its regular-season finale Saturday to claim the Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship.

Things never got going for the Slippery Rock offense with a PSAC title on the line.

Quarterback Brayden Long, the conference’s leading passer, threw for just 182 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions against the PSAC’s top-ranked defense. He completed three passes for 31 yards and the Rock’s lone touchdown, with 55 seconds remaining in the game, to the PSAC’s top receiver, Kyle Sheets.

Slippery Rock was held to just 47 yards rushing.

Junior Darryl Davis-McNeil led the Kutztown rushing attack, carrying the football 26 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

Golden Bears quarterback Judd Novak also passed for 137 yards and two scores to Mekhi Gibson and Tyreek Husser.

Turnovers plague California in loss at East Stroudsburg

California University of Pennsylvania turned the football over three times and was outscored by 10 points in the second half Saturday to close out its regular season with a 37-30 loss on the road to East Stroudsburg at Eiler-Martin Stadium.

Quarterback Davis Black completed 31-of-46 passes for 364 yards and a touchdown, but his three interceptions were critical for the Vulcans (7-3) against the host Warriors (9-2). He completed eight passes for 136 yards to D’Avay Johnson and nine passes for 84 yards and a score to Eric Willis III.

California was held to just 66 rushing yards, led by Eric McKan III’s 31 yards and a touchdown. 

East Stroudsburg quarterback Charlie McKee threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns.

IUP shuts out Bloomsburg to close out regular season

Indiana University of Pennsylvania rushed for 280 yards, led by running back Dayjure Stewart’s 186 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, to close out its regular season with a 31-0 victory Saturday against host Bloomsburg at Redman Stadium.

Karst Hunter completed 13-of-19 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns for the Crimson Hawks (6-5) against the Huskies (3-8).

Linebacker Drew DiNunzio-Biss, a Kiski Area graduate, recorded 10 tackles, 4½ for a loss, with one sack to lead the IUP defensive effort.

The Crimson Hawks conceded Bloomsburg just 49 yards rushing and 91 through the air.

Seton Hill offense takes over in second half to defeat Millersville

Seton Hill outscored Millersville by 14 points in the second half to end its season with a 30-10 victory on the road Saturday at Chryst Field at Biemesderfer Stadium.

Quarterback Jake Cruz threw for 110 yards and three touchdowns for the Griffins (6-5), while receiver Mark Bails Jr. caught four passes for 94 yards and all three scores against the Marauders (3-8).

Seton Hill earned its first winning season in PSAC West play this fall. 

Grove City completes first undefeated regular season in school history

West Allegheny product Nico Flati rushed for a game-high 105 yards on 22 carries, while Clayton Parrish added 75 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, to lead No. 20 Grove City to a blowout of rival Thiel, 31-0, Saturday at Alumni Stadium at Stoeber Field in Greenville to claim the Mercer County Cup and the first undefeated regular season in school history.

With the win against the Presidents’ Athletic Conference foe Tomcats (3-7) in tow, the Wolverines will now await their seeding in the NCAA Division III playoffs. The D-III bracket is scheduled to be released at 5 p.m. Sunday by the NCAA.

Peters Township graduate Logan Pfeuffer threw for 154 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for Grove City, while Knoch product Scott Fraser caught four passes for a game-high 78 yards and Blackhawk graduate Ryan Heckathorn added two catches for 31 yards and a score.

Moon graduate Ben Bladel recorded five tackles and four sacks for the Wolverines. His conference-best 15 sacks are good for a tie atop the Grove City all-time single-season sack list with Mark Furgeson, who had 15 in 1998.

Bryce Spolnik, a South Fayette graduate, had six tackles and two sacks for the Wolverines, while Penn-Trafford product Jack Jolie racked up a team-high seven tackles and a sack.

Carnegie Mellon finishes season strong with win in “Academic Bowl”

Carnegie Mellon never trailed against Case Western Reserve to emerge with a 31-21 victory Saturday night in the 37th annual “Academic Bowl” at Gesling Stadium in Oakland.

With the win against the Spartans (7-3), the Tartans (9-1), who were ranked as high as No. 14 in the nation this season, have now won six consecutive games since dropping a slim 21-14 Week 4 decision to No. 20 Grove City.

Running back Tre Vasiliadis paced the Carnegie Mellon offense with 92 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries, while quarterback Ben Mills also passed for 187 yards with a touchdown and interception.

Joey McGinnis IV carried the ball three times for 6 yards and two touchdowns for the Tartans.

Carnegie Mellon linebackers Robert Coury and Logan Young, a Moon product, each had an interception. Coury had a team-high 11 tackles and a sack, while Young added five tackles and a sack.

Case Western quarterback Alex Fromberg threw for 254 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Receiver Noah Coyne caught six passes for a game-high 115 yards and a touchdown for the Spartans, while Riley Knurek and Upper St. Clair graduate Ethan Dahlem also caught scoring strikes.

Washington & Jefferson quarterback Jacob Pugh, a Thomas Jefferson graduate, threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns against rival Waynesburg Saturday afternoon at Campbell Stadium in Washington. (Courtesy of Washington & Jefferson athletics)

Pugh leads W&J to a victory against rival Waynesburg

Thomas Jefferson graduate Jacob Pugh completed 27-of-36 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns, as Washington & Jefferson scored all of its points in the first half and hung on to defeat rival Waynesburg, 33-28, Saturday in a PAC contest at Cameron Stadium in Washington.

Receiver John Peduzzi caught a game-high 10 passes for 179 yards and two scores for the Presidents (8-2), while Zack Seaman and Southmoreland product Zach Cernuto added touchdown catches against the Yellow Jackets (2-8).

Running back Zayne Cawley carried the football a game-high 26 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns for Waynesburg.

Charleroi native Dakota Romantino caught four passes for 54 yards and a score for the Yellow Jackets.

McGowan strong for Westminster in season-finale victory against Geneva

Moon product Ty McGowan threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns to lead Westminster to a 35-14 victory against Geneva Saturday at Memorial Field inside Harold Burry Stadium in New Wilmington.

Taite Beachy, also a Moon graduate, caught five passes for 60 yards for the Titans (6-4), while Damarion Collins added a pair of scores on the ground against the Golden Tornadoes (4-6).

Pitt strikes out in loss to Syracuse at Yankee Stadium

Pitt quarterback Christian Veilleux threw for 161 yards and a touchdown but threw one interception and fumbled the ball twice, as the Panthers suffered a 28-13 setback against Syracuse Saturday in an Atlantic Coast Conference game played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York.

Defensive back Donovan McMillan, a Peters Township product, recorded a team-high 11 tackles for the Panthers (2-8) against the Orange (5-5).

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at jsanta@unionprogress.com.

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at jsanta@unionprogress.com.