The Duquesne football team does not do anything pretty.
And that sits just fine with Jerry Schmitt.
After failing to clinch an outright Northeast Conference championship and an NCAA Division I FCS automatic playoff bid at home a week earlier, the Dukes went on the road Saturday afternoon and grounded out a 26-14 victory against Merrimack at Duane Stadium in North Andover, Massachusetts.
Schmitt, now in his 19th season as Duquesne’s coach, captured his second outright NEC title and third FCS postseason berth.
“They didn’t do things easy this year,” Schmitt said. “They decided to do it the hard way. Instead of closing it out last week, they said, ‘OK, let’s go on the road and play the other best team in the conference and win this thing on the road.’”
After running out to its first 5-0 start in NEC play since joining the conference in 2008, Duquesne (7-4, 6-1) squandered a chance to claim an outright conference title with a 33-28 loss to Stonehill last week at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field on the Bluff.
Needing to knock off second-place Merrimack (5-6, 4-3), the Dukes responded by shutting out the Warriors in the second half Saturday and adding a pair of timely second-half touchdowns of their own to secure the historic victory.
“They’re resilient,” said Schmitt of his team. “They’re tough. They have gutty wins, and they make some splash plays at times. I’m really happy for these guys. I wanted it really bad for these guys. They’ve been through a lot, not only this season but last season. Some of these guys have been here five years and haven’t had a championship. It feels really good to get that for those guys.”
Duquesne has now won at least a share of six NEC championships and nine conference titles in nearly two decades under Schmitt’s direction. The Dukes have earned 17 conference titles since joining the Division I FCS level in 1993.
“It’s awesome for the Dukes,” Schmitt said. “I’m so happy to represent Duquesne University up here in the Boston area and get this victory and bring it on home tonight and get back to work in a couple days.
“I told the kids after the game when we were on the field there, I said, ‘This party doesn’t have to end, but we do have to go get a picture with this trophy.’ They were all excited.”
Duquesne will now turn its attention to the FCS playoffs.
The NCAA will host a televised reveal of the FCS bracket at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.
The Dukes first qualified for the FCS postseason in 2015 when they suffered a 52-49 first-round defeat at the hands of William & Mary before qualifying again in 2018 and earning a 31-10 first-round win against Towson prior to bowing out of the playoffs with a 51-6 loss to eventual national semifinalist South Dakota State in the second round.
“We are going to enjoy this win first, but coach Schmitt likes to say, ‘We’ve got a 24-hour rule,”’ Duquesne freshman running back Edward Robinson said. “So we are going to enjoy this win today and be right back on Monday and ready to go.”
Robinson surely played his part in Duquesne’s victory against Merrimack.
The shifty, 5-foot-11, 190-pound running back carried the football 12 times for 89 yards and a 10-yard touchdown, which was the Dukes’ lone score in the fourth quarter.
Duquesne quarterback Darius Perrantes also completed 11-of-18 passes for 218 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He connected with receiver Keshawn Brown two times for 54 yards and two touchdowns while also finding DJ Powell two times for 35 yards and a 1-yard third-quarter touchdown that held up as the game-winning score.
“First, I just have to thank my offensive line,” Robinson said. “They did a hell of a job today. I was just in there at that time, and I just made a play at the right time. This was definitely a team win.”
And that certainly includes the Duquesne defense, which held the Warriors to 202 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Malakai Anthony was held to just nine completions for 68 yards and an interception for Merrimack.
Anthony did rush for 42 yards and a second-quarter score, while running back Tyvon Edmonds Jr. carried the ball 24 times for 77 yards and a 4-yard touchdown, which tied the score with 28 seconds remaining before halftime.
In the second half, however, the Dukes shut the door.
Merrimack failed to score in the second half, and Duquesne freshman defensive lineman Jack Dunkley had a strip sack of Anthony in the fourth quarter before junior defensive back Jaelen Carson added a late-game interception.
Linebacker Gianni Rizzo, a Norwin graduate, had a game-high 10 tackles and 1½ for a loss. The Youngstown State transfer has recorded a tackle for a loss in six of the Dukes’ seven NEC games this season.
“They did an outstanding job,” said Schmitt of his defense. “Even in the first half they contained them. They’re hurting with some injuries. Key injuries are starting to build up on the front line there. So younger guys are stepping up, the older guys are stepping up. The d-backs and the linebackers are playing at a very high level and playing as a team. That second half was a classic.”
Slippery Rock offense comes alive in NCAA Division II first-round playoff victory
No. 15 Slippery Rock, the No. 4 seed in Super Regional One, exploded for 287 rushing yards to rout visiting East Stroudsburg, 45-14, in an NCAA Division II first-round playoff victory Saturday afternoon at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
The Rock opened its fifth consecutive NCAA postseason run, the second-longest active streak in the nation, in convincing fashion by racking up five touchdowns on the ground.
Running back Chris D’Or rushed for a game-high 90 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries for Slippery Rock (11-1), while Khalid Dorsey contributed 85 yards and a score, Isaiah Edwards ran for 64 yards and two touchdowns and Kylon Wilson added a 46-yard score against East Stroudsburg (9-3).
Rock quarterback Brayden Long, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Year, also completed 21-of-30 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown. He connected with PSAC West first-team all-conference receiver Kyle Sheets three times for 48 yards and a score.
Slippery Rock advances to face Super Regional One top-seeded Tiffin (11-0) at noon next Saturday at Tiffin.
After dropping its first game of the season in the PSAC championship game to Kutztown, Slippery Rock will have a shot at redemption on its hands against the Great Midwest Athletic Conference champion Dragons next weekend.
Slippery Rock was the favorite to receive the top seed in the Super Regional, and a first-round bye, before suffering its conference title game upset.
Grove City wins first NCAA Division III playoff game in school history in dramatic fashion
Grove City quarterback Logan Pfeuffer, a Peters Township graduate, found junior receiver Ryan Lenhart, a Shenango product, for a 13-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-down play with seven seconds remaining Saturday afternoon to lead the Wolverines to a dramatic 21-20 victory against Susquehanna in an NCAA Division III first-round playoff game at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field at Doug Arthur Stadium in Selinsgrove.
It was the first NCAA playoff victory for Presidents’ Athletic Conference champion Grove City (11-0) in school history.
Running back Clayton Parrish did much of the damage for the No. 16 Wolverines against the Landmark Conference champion No. 9 Susquehanna (10-1) defense. He carried the football 21 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns, while West Allegheny graduate Nico Flati added 53 yards on 13 carries.
Pfeuffer completed 15-of-30 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target was senior receiver Scott Fraser, a Knoch graduate, who caught eight passes for 86 yards.
Penn-Trafford product Jack Jollie led the Grove City defensive effort with 12 tackles, while South Fayette product Ryan Fleming added eight tackles and Moon graduate Ben Bladel contributed seven.
The Wolverines defense held Susquehanna quarterback Josh Ehrlich to just 90 yards passing while keeping the River Hawks’ ground game in check with just 102 yards allowed.
Grove City advances to face Cortland (10-1) at a site and time to be determined next Saturday. The Red Dragons upended Endicott, 23-17, in a first-round playoff game Saturday afternoon.
Carnegie Mellon wins ECAC Bowl game for seventh-consecutive victory to close out season
Quarterback Ben Mills arguably saved his best game for last, completing 25-of-39 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns to lead Carnegie Mellon to a 37-7 victory against Brockport State in the ECAC Asa S. Bushnell Bowl Saturday at the Tartans home Gesling Stadium in Oakland.
Receiver Ethan Reifer caught a game-high eight passes for 137 yards, while Dominic Voiland and Brian Stacy also caught scoring strikes for Carnegie Mellon (10-1) against Brockport State (8-3).
Senior running back Tre Vasiliadis rushed for a team-high 67 yards on 18 carries for the Tartans, while Joey McGinnis IV rushed for 16 yards and two scores on seven carries.
Carnegie Mellon kicker Justin Caputo, a South Fayette product, also made three field goals. He converted on kicks of 35, 29 and 39 yards.
Washington & Jefferson rolls to ECAC Bowl victory
Washington & Jefferson exploded for 25 points in the second quarter of the ECAC James Lynah Bowl Saturday afternoon and wrapped up its season by coasting to a 46-21 victory over the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Cameron Stadium in Washington.
Quarterback Jacob Pugh, a Thomas Jefferson graduate, completed 16-of-23 passes for 232 yards, six touchdowns and an interception for the Presidents (9-2).
Pugh found receiver Jacob Macosko five times for 88 yards and four touchdowns, while targeting John Peduzzi a game-high eight times for 96 yards and two scores.
W&J, which was outgained 221-196 on the ground by the Mariners (7-3), received a game-high 117 yards on 11 carries from Bentworth product Owen Petrisek, while Bethel Park graduate Troy Volpatti added a score on the ground.
The Merchant Marine Academy ran 72 rushing plays and was paced by Cesar Gonzalez’s 66 yards on 31 carries.
W&J senior linebacker Justin Johns, a Franklin regional product, racked up a game-high 23 tackles, while fellow linebacker Keaton Hall added 18.
Robert Morris defense struggles in season-ending loss
Robert Morris conceded 226 yards through the air and 190 on the ground en route to suffering a 28-14 decision to visiting Eastern Illinois in the Colonials’ regular-season finale at Joe Walton Stadium in Moon.
Quarterback Zach Tanner threw for 156 yards and a touchdown, and receiver Noah Robinson caught nine passes for 116 yards and a score for Robert Morris (4-7, 2-4), but it wasn’t enough against Eastern Illinois (8-3, 4-2), which closed its season in third place in the Big South-OVC standings.
Panthers quarterback Pierce Holly threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns, while running back MJ Flowers rushed for 179 yards and a score on 31 carries.