By Joseph Sykes | Sports Editor
There’s always that one college football game that lives on in the memory of the players. Unfortunately for the 2015 Dukes, that memory will be a loss. But what a loss it was.
Despite the 52-49 loss to the Tribe, the Red & Blue put on an outstanding show of athleticism through all four quarters. It was a barnburner of a matchup not quite often seen in the ranks of Division 1-AA, and any game that has a combined score of 101 points is something pretty special.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, and despite many mistakes by both sides, the Dukes were the ones who seemed most consistent, especially on offense, even though they were unable to pull out the win.
Quarterback Dillon Buechel was fantastic through most of the game. He helped get his team out a 14-0 start with two 70-plus yard bombs to wideouts Nehari Crawford and Chris King.
In spite of a few first quarter blunders, which helped the Tribe tie the game up at 14, the redshirt junior was phenomenal on the stat sheet. He had career highs in all four passing categories with 53 attempts, 33 completions, 423 passing yards and six touchdowns – a school record.
It was clear who Buechel’s favorite target was. Senior wideout Chris King topped off his tremendous collegiate campaign with personal bests of 12 receptions and 221 receiving yards, while fellow classmate Wayne Capers tied his career high seven catches before finding the endzone three separate times.
In the eyes of a casual fan, it’s difficult to see how a team could find a way to lose with these incredible offensive numbers, but it was two separate occasions on special teams that proved to be the Dukes’ downfall.
After failing to convert on a third-and-10 play, the Dukes lined up to punt. After the ball was snapped, however, junior punter Austin Crimmins ran the ball up the right flank himself before getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. It was a questionable call that eventually led to the Tribe scoring on the next drive to make the score 28-14.
While a field goal and another quick scoring drive were enough to get the Dukes back within four points of the Tribe at halftime, Crimmins’ decision to run on that play would haunt his team for the rest of the game.
After William & Mary added three points to make the score 31-24, the Dukes got their chance to cut the lead back to five with a field goal. However, the Tribe found a seam in Duquesne’s line and blocked the kick. DeAndre Houston-Clark returned the ball 65 yards to put his team up 38-24, which was a devastating blow to the Dukes’ chances.
Despite these two plays, however, the Red & Blue kept answering the Tribe’s onslaught of scoring drives. After the blocked field goal, Buechel found senior wideout Wayne Capers on a five-yard out pattern to bring the Dukes back within five. The Tribe scored again early in the fourth quarter, but Buechel would answer with another pass to Capers. He found Capers on a fade route, which the receiver took an extra 42 yards on his way to the endzone. King made the conversion, but unfortunately for the Dukes, that was the team’s last scoring play.
It was an incredible run for Duquesne not only in terms of this game, but over the course of the season. There have been times throughout the year that the Dukes found themselves in a hole in the standings before winning key games.
Despite losing the likes of King, Capers and running back Klartel Claridy this offseason, the Dukes have a number of returning veterans like Buechel and sophomore running back Rafiq Douglas. The roster will still be stacked offensively and they’ll need to get continued success from each member if they wish to return to the tournament.