Dukes win seventh straight game at Rooney

Zach Brendza / The Duquesne Duke
Zach Brendza / The Duquesne Duke

Rich Donahue | The Duquesne Duke

In a city that lives on football, it’s hard for the Duquesne Dukes to stand out in the crowd. But the Dukes can brag about something that not even the Pittsburgh Steelers can claim: a seven-game home winning streak.

For the seventh time in as many games at Rooney Field, the Dukes prevailed, this time defeating the Monmouth Hawks 30-21 on Saturday afternoon to improve to 2-2 on the season.

Coach Jerry Schmitt praised the team for the impressive win.

“I was impressed the way we came out,” Schmitt said. “We were very efficient and played very well on offense and we settled in on defense after [Monmouth’s] first drive.”

Sophomore quarterback Dillon Buechel continued his impressive start to the season with another outstanding performance. Buechel racked up 344 passing yards and two passing touchdowns on his way to earning the NEC Offensive Player of the Week Award. The young gunslinger for the Dukes now sits at number two in the FCS in passing yards this season, with 1,231 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Buechel, who tallied 251 of his passing yards in the first half, said the offense came out on fire to begin the game, but played a bit stagnant in the second.

“I thought for the offense it was kind of a tale of two halves,” Buechel said. “The first half we came out clicking on all cylinders. In the second half we had some good drives, but we got a little stagnant at the end and kicked too many field goals.”

Junior wide receiver Chris King has been a huge asset to Buechel through four games this season. Buechel targeted King early and often versus Hawks, going to the Maryland native 10 times for 124 yards and two scores. Last season, King showed flashes of greatness early in the season with back-to-back 100 yard receiving efforts. However, King was slowed with a groin injury and played in only five games in 2013. In 2014, King has picked up where he left off, leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. King leads the FCS in receiving yards with 513 and is tied for fourth in the nation in touchdowns with five.

When asked about his stellar season so far, King said his excitement is only building.

“It is just exciting to me,” King said. “I’m just filled with confidence in the things that will come.”

On defense, the Red & Blue matched up against a tremendous Monmouth rushing attack which was averaging 192 yards through its first two games. Led by NEC Defensive Player of the Week Austin Whalen, the Dukes were able to corral the Hawk running game, holding them to a season-low 70 yards. Whalen made his presence known behind the line of scrimmage, recording four tackles for loss and one sack. The senior linebacker said big plays are key, but at the end of the day he’s just doing his job.

“It felt good to make a big play,” Whalen said. “But I’m just out there doing my job and I have to give credit to the defensive backs. Those were coverage sacks really and they were covering their guys for so long somebody had to get to him [the quarterback].”

Senior kicker Austin Crimmins also earned honors from the NEC. He was named Special Teams Player of the Week after converting on three field goals for the Dukes.

The Dukes will play next on Oct. 4 against West Liberty in their annual Homecoming game. Last season, the Dukes were able to hold off the Hilltoppers 27-14 thanks to three defensive touchdowns. Buechel, who threw threeinterceptions against the Hilltoppers a year ago, said the Dukes will not underestimate their Division II foe this time around.

“After last year we will not be taking them lightly at all,” Buechel said. “We have to get in there and watch the tape, which I assume we will be doing a lot of in the next two weeks so hopefully we get everything corrected.”