By Andrew White | Staff Writer
On a day during which Duquesne football’s senior class took to Rooney Field one last time, it was that very senior class that guided the Dukes to a 31-10 win over conference foe Sacred Heart.
With a plethora of senior talent on both sides of the ball, it was no surprise that the experienced group would play a big role in the win to ensure they ended their careers on Rooney Field on a positive note.
“[The win] is huge for our seniors,” head coach Jerry Schmitt said. “They contributed to a great win, and it’s great to send them out as winners.”
Four year starter Dillon Buechel guided the offense throughout the game, passing for 225 yards and connecting on a touchdown to fellow redshirt senior Wayne Capers Jr. During the game Buechel achieved a personal milestone, surpassing 10,000 career passing yards.
“It’s great to get accolades like that,” Buechel said. “All the hard work, all the effort, the things you put into it, to see it pay off is great. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates or coaches though.”
Additionally, the star quarterback put himself within reach of Duquesne’s all-time passing yards record held by Niel Loebig with 10,256 yards.
Between Capers and graduate student Blair Roberts, the Dukes have had a legitimate one-two punch at wide receiver all season. The duo has put up big numbers for the Red & Blue as they have combined for 85 catches, 1,488 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns.
The production was visible on Saturday as well. Roberts hauled in six passes, including two first down catches on third downs that set up the Capers touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, the defense was fittingly led by redshirt senior All-American linebacker Christian Kuntz who recorded two sacks and a forced fumble, which he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
“You obviously want to go out on top and win your last game at home,” Kuntz said. “It’s nice to win with the guys you came into school with, and I know everyone played that much harder for us this afternoon.”
The Dukes’ defense also forced two other turnovers, including another fumble, which was recovered by redshirt senior defensive tackle Jake Radziukinas.
Kuntz, like Buechel, had a record breaking day. On his first sack, Kuntz broke the Duquesne record for career sacks, and on his second, he tied the Northeast Conference record for career sacks.
“It’s nice,” Kuntz said when asked about his record. “But I couldn’t have done it without my coaches. I’m more happy that we got the win.”
Kuntz and Buechel aren’t the only record breakers, though. Redshirt senior Austin Crimmins has kicked his way into the record books for the Dukes. The school leader for career field goals made tied the NEC record for career field goals, with a 38-yard kick in the win on Saturday.
Crimmins and senior kicker Lance Geesey of Saint Francis are tied with 56 career field goals and will continue fighting for the record throughout the remainder of the season, hoping to sit alone atop the NEC conference record book.
While all of the personal records mean a lot, the most notable accomplishment for the seniors was leading the Dukes to their first ever Division I FCS playoffs appearance last season after winning the NEC conference outright.
While the likes of Buechel, Capers and Kuntz will not touch Rooney Field again in a Duquesne uniform, the future’s still bright up on the Bluff. The Dukes will look to be just as talented next year on defense, including retaining their two top tacklers Carter Henderson and Nathan Stone.
Star running back and 1,000-yard rusher A.J. Hines will look to lead the offense next year along with former two time Pennsylvania AA player of the year, redshirt freshman quarterback Brent Brumbaugh.
The seniors look to guide Duquesne to one last win next week when the Dukes travel to New Britain, Connecticut, to play the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils in the season finale.