Dukes roll over W. Liberty in Homecoming game

Rebecca Kittel / The Duquesne Duke
Rebecca Kittel / The Duquesne Duke
Rebecca Kittel / The Duquesne Duke

Rich Donahue | The Duquesne Duke

It was a wet and wild Homecoming game for the Duquesne Dukes. Through the rain, wind and at one point hail, the Dukes took on the West Liberty Hilltoppers in a non-conference matchup. Aside the festivities on the campus Saturday afternoon, the Dukes (3-2) steamrolled the Hilltoppers (2-3) 39-13 on Rooney Field.

The victory marked the eighth straight win for the Dukes at Rooney Field.

Coach Jerry Schmitt was pleased with the performance, but he was adamant about playing hard for four quarters.

“I thought we played a really good first half execution-wise,” Schmitt said. “And I thought we came out in the second half with the focus to do the same, but I thought it got a little sloppy. I am not happy because we really need to focus on playing 60 minutes.”

What continues to be the story of the Dukes’ 2014 season is the connection of sophomore quarterback Dillon Buechel and junior wide receiver Chris King. Buechel, who struggled last year against the Hilltoppers, rebounded with another tremendous passing performance. The signal caller went 22-34 for 330 yards and two touchdowns with one interception on a tipped pass off the foot of wide receiver Dave Thomas. Because of the Dukes’ bye last week, Buechel slipped in the race for the FCS passing crown, falling back to sixth on the list with 1,561 yards on the season.

Buechel said after the game that the offense played very well, but shared Coach Schmitt’s mindset in playing a full four quarters, no matter the score.

“I thought offensively we had our times that we played really well and were clicking,” Buechel said. “But we are still looking to put four quarters together and we did not exactly do that today.”

King, on the flip side, continues to be the go-to target for Buechel. The junior wide out racked up seven catches for 142 yards in the victory. Buechel threw one of his two touchdowns to King on a 73-yard catch and run down the Duquesne sideline early in the second half. As with Buechel, King moved down in the FCS receiving yards leaders list, dropping to number four with 655 yards on 37 catches. King still ranks number one in receiving yards per game in the FCS with 131.
On the outlook for the rest of the season, King hopes the team can continue their winning ways.

“We just hope to keep this momentum going so we can continue to be successful,” King said.

The success of Buechel and King have made many, including their head coach, try to recall the last time they had seen a quarterback-wide receiver duo on the Bluff as dominant as the pair have been this season. Coach Schmitt said that two are turning simple plays into huge ones for the team.

“They are making the basic plays and Chris is turning them into big plays,” Schmitt said. “And Dillon puts the ball on a dime.”

Defensively, the Dukes were up against former Arizona Wildcat quarterback Dakota Conwell. Conwell, a Pittsburgh native, was sacked twice and threw two interceptions as the Duquesne defense limited the Hilltoppers to 235 yards of total offense. Freshmen linebacker Nathan Stone recorded 7 total tackles, including one sack in the win for the Dukes. Stone leads the Dukes in tackles with 37 through five games.

Following Saturday’s game, the Dukes will open Northeast Conference play this week when they visit the Central Connecticut Blue Devils. Last season, the Dukes defeated the Blue Devils 24-21 at Rooney Field. Coach Schmitt would say it best after the game, our season beings again.

“We are at 0-0 and we are going after it one game at a time,” Schmitt said. “We are happy to be where we are at and I think we have progressed through the season, but we still have some work to do.”

After traveling to Connecticut this weekend, the Dukes will return to the Bluff to finish their October schedule at home.

They’ll face Sacred Heart on Oct. 18 in a rematch of last year’s 10-0 loss in the Dukes’ final game of NEC play.