It took five years for Michael Dorundo to finally get this moment.
A Pine-Richland product, who has anchored the Duquesne offensive line for the past three seasons as its starting center, Dorundo finally got to play in his first NCAA Division I FCS playoff game Saturday evening against Youngstown State.
That opportunity came after the Dukes locked up an outright Northeast Conference championship a week earlier.
“Being in the city of Pittsburgh, coming straight from 30 minutes away, it’s really cool to put it on for a city that there’s not obviously lots of traditions — and lots of expectations,” said Dorundo, a fifth-year graduate student. “It feels good to really finally live up to those expectations and win our NEC championship.”
Despite Duquesne’s third FCS playoff run in school history ending with a 40-7 loss to host Youngstown State at Stambaugh Stadium Saturday night, Dorundo said he takes pride in the trajectory the program took during his tenure — especially this season.
“There’s lots of great people in this program,” he said. “I’m really happy with how this season went. Obviously, it’s not the outcome you want, but when you make the playoffs there’s going to be  teams that don’t win that championship.
“Kudos to Youngstown, they played a really good game,” he added. “I’m really happy for everyone in this program, all the work they put in this season and to earn the championship last week.”
After running out to its first 5-0 start in NEC play since joining the conference in 2008, Duquesne absorbed an upset loss at home against Stonehill two weeks ago before traveling to Andover, Massachusetts, to earn a hard-fought road victory against Merrimack last Saturday.
The win against Merrimack gave the Dukes their second outright NEC championship and first FCS playoff bid since 2018.
“It meant the world to us,” said Dukes junior linebacker Gianni Rizzo, a 2019 Norwin graduate. “We’ve been through a lot as a team. So much stuff has gone wrong, just travel issues, and everything — this team has fought adversity all year. I’m proud of our guys just to win the NEC, get a ring for us. Playoffs was next, and we came here and gave it our all.”
Duquesne last qualified for the FCS playoffs in 2018 when coach Jerry Schmitt’s team won a 31-10 first-round decision against Towson before bowing out of the postseason with a 51-6 loss to eventual national semifinalist South Dakota State in the second round.
Saturday night’s loss more closely resembled the Dukes’ first FCS playoff berth in school history in 2015 when Duquesne fell to William & Mary, 52-49, in the first round.
Schmitt, with his 19th season coaching Duquesne now wrapped up, said his program will look to build upon its success this season with the intention of becoming a regular FCS postseason participant.
“These guys, Mike, Gianni and a number of other guys took on a great leadership role,” Schmitt said. “The younger guys learned from that. I learned from how they led this football team. We’ll take what they have given us and continue to move forward with it.
“This team learned how to overcome adversity,” he added. “From playing seven games on the road and playing the teams we played, the FBS teams, they learned how to overcome adversity. We will use that to continue on.”
The adversity against Youngstown State, however, was just too much for Duquesne (7-5) to overcome.
Youngstown State (8-4) outgained Duquesne, 532-148.
Penguins quarterback Mitch Davidson passed for 316 yards and two touchdowns, while receiver Bryce Oliver caught nine passes for 181 yards and a score.
Running back Tyshon King carried the football 19 times for 101 yards for Youngstown State, while Dra Rushton added 74 yards and a score.
“If you ask our kids, how do you win games, they’ll all say in unison, ‘Defense, defense, defense,’” Penguins coach Doug Phillips said. “We knew at times this year we needed to play better defense.”
Duquesne quarterback Darius Perrantes was held to just three completions for 33 yards, while backup Matt Robinson completed just six for 41 yards.
The Dukes were held to just 74 rushing yards, led by running back Taj Butts’ 44 yards and freshman Edward Robinson’s 31 yards and one touchdown.
Schmitt said the Penguins’ ability to control the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage was critical.
“When we weren’t moving the football and getting the first downs we weren’t able to get into our normal rotation and getting some guys some quality carries or catches out of the backfield,” Schmitt said.
Youngstown State took control of the game from the outset.
After Duquesne went three and out on its first possession, the Penguins drove 60 yards in three plays and Davidson completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to CJ Charleston to hand their team a 7-0 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Dukes later trimmed its first-quarter deficit to 10-7 with a 24-yard touchdown run by Robinson, but Youngstown State outscored Duquesne by 14 points to close out the half and take a 24-7 lead into the break.
Rushton scored on a 2-yard touchdown run for the Penguins, while Davidson connected with Oliver for a 21-yard scoring strike in the second quarter.
Youngstown State kicker Andrew Lastovka made four field goals, three coming in the second half. He converted on a 34-yard attempt in the first quarter before making kicks of 25, 40 and 50 yards in the second half.
Jayden Johnson led Duquesne’s defense with 13 tackles, while Rizzo’s 11 tackles tied a career high.
Youngstown State advances to face No. 8 seed Villanova in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
“They played an excellent game,” said Schmitt of the Penguins. “We wish them all of the best moving on. We would’ve liked to have played a better football game. It wasn’t the way we played or have been used to playing. Some of it was forced because of the things that they did, but I think we also didn’t play as well as we could have.”
No. 15 Slippery Rock runs past Super Regional’s top seed No. 9 Tiffin for second-round playoff victory
No. 15 Slippery Rock rushed for 219 yards and four scores as it took a 10-point advantage into halftime and hung on for a 45-35 victory against No. 9 Tiffin, Super Regional One’s top seed, Saturday afternoon in an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game at Frost-Kalnow Stadium in Tiffin, Ohio.
The Rock was ranked No. 4 in the country before being routed in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship game by Kutztown, 31-7, Nov. 11. Following the PSAC title-game loss, Slippery Rock was dropped out of the Super Regional’s top spot and was forced to play a first-round game, while Tiffin received a bye.
Slippery Rock responded by pummeling East Stroudsburg 45-14 in the first round and carrying that momentum into Saturday’s game against Tiffin (11-1).
No. 4 seed Slippery Rock (11-1) advances for a rematch with No. 3 seed Kutztown (11-2) in the Super Regional One final next Saturday. The Rock will host the NCAA Division II quarterfinal game, which is scheduled to kick off at noon.
Kutztown knocked off Charleston, 32-31, Saturday.
Running back Chris D’Or rushed for a game-high 89 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries for Slippery Rock (12-1), while Khalid Dorsey racked up 70 yards and a score on 10 carries and Isaiah Edwards added 46 yards and a touchdown against the Dragons.
Rock senior quarterback Brayden Long completed 16-of-23 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown. He found receiver Kyle Sheets seven times for 82 yards and a score, while Cohen Russell also caught four passes for 85 yards.
Kylon Wilson also returned a kickoff 90 yards for a critical second-quarter Slippery Rock touchdown.
Tiffin quarterback Keegan Ray completed 26-of-39 passes for 333 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Jalen Thomas caught seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, while Will Linkhard had three receptions for 54 yards and score for the Dragons.
Tiffin running back Carson Gresock rushed for 67 yards and three touchdowns.
Grove City’s playoff run ends in heartbreaking fashion with loss at Cortland
No. 16 Grove City saw a potential 37-yard, game-winning field-goal attempt by kicker Caleb Kuechly sail wide left with six seconds remaining in its NCAA Division III second-round playoff game Saturday against No. 11 Cortland, as the Wolverines’ postseason run ended with a 25-24 loss at Grady Field in Cortland, New York.
After winning its first NCAA Division III playoff game in school history with a last-second touchdown against Susquehanna a week earlier, Grove City (11-1) saw the most successful season in school history end at the hands of Cortland (11-1).
Wolverines coach Andrew DiDonato, a Bridgeville native and South Fayette graduate, led his program to its first national ranking, first 10-0 regular season in school history and first NCAA postseason berth in his eighth season leading his alma mater this fall.
Before Kuechly’s missed field-goal attempt, Grove City conceded the game-tying touchdown on a 1-yard run by Red Dragons running back Jaden AlfanoStJohn with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter.
Cortland quarterback Zac Boyes then connected for a reception with Omari Kendrick for the game-winning 2-point conversion.
The Red Dragons drove 57 yards in 12 plays over 5:47 for the game’s definitive scoring drive.
Quarterback Logan Pfeuffer, a Peters Township graduate, completed 18-of-30 passes for 197 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, while West Allegheny product Nico Flati rushed for 116 yards to pace the Grove City offense.
Blackhawk graduate Ryan Heckathorn caught eight passes for 96 yards and a touchdown for the Wolverines, as Knoch product Scott Fraser caught seven passes for 75 yards and a score and Shenango graduate Ryan Lenhart brought in a 4-yard scoring strike.
Penn-Trafford graduates Jack Jollie and Gabe Dunlap had a team-high 11 tackles for Grove City. Moon product Ben Bladel had six tackles, three for a loss, with two sacks for the Wolverines. He finished with a school-record 17 sacks on the season.
Boyes passed for 263 yards to lead Cortland, while JJ Laap caught eight passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Pitt’s season ends with a thud in lopsided loss at Duke
Nate Yarnell threw for 265 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his second consecutive start for Pitt, but the Panthers fell to Duke, 30-15, Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.
Bub Means caught six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown for Pitt (3-9) in the loss to Duke (7-5).