Pat Higgins | Assistant Sports Editor
From an outsider’s perspective, former quarterback Sean Patterson’s graduation in the spring may have given the impression that a competition for his replacement in camp this fall would spell a year of transition for the Dukes. But redshirt freshman quarterback Dillon Buechel has made a near seamless transition stepping into the helm after winning the starting job in August.
In two starts, the kid from Montour High has wasted no time making an impact – he’s already thrown for over 600 yards and four touchdowns in a victory over Albany in the home opener and a tough loss at Dayton last weekend.
In addition to impressive showings in the box scores, Buechel’s first career touchdown pass against Albany appeared on ESPNU’s Top Ten College Football Plays of the Week after senior wide receiver Sean Brady climbed an apparently invisible ladder and hauled in the pass with his right hand.
His early season success has come as no surprise to anyone within the program after he finished his career at Montour as the second-leading passer in Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League history (6,898 yards & 75 touchdowns) and won a state championship as a junior.
”Physically he has the tools,” said head coach Jerry Schmitt. “He’s got a strong arm, mentally he throws the ball on time. He keeps his head about himself – he doesn’t get too high or too low. That’s one of the things that impressed me when I went to see him play in high school. He’d throw a touchdown pass and just walk over to the offensive coordinator, ask him what he saw and tell him what they wanted to do next. He’d throw an interception and do the exact same thing. For a quarterback, I think that’s a skill that will help you in the long run over and over and over. He’s shown that in the first couple games.”
A sophomore pre-pharmacy major, Buechel said being able to sit and learn behind Patterson for a full year was a huge advantage in adjusting to a new level of competition.
”The transition was definitely a lot smoother being able to sit a year and having Sean who started  games,” he said. “It was definitely nice to sit in on meetings with him and just [be] able to learn things off him.”
Named to the Post-Gazette’s Fabulous 22 and the Tribune-Review’s Terrific 25 twice as a junior and senior, he’s somewhat accustomed to the spotlight from his days as one of the area’s most prolific passers.
”We played in some big games [at Montour] in some big stadiums like Heinz Field and Manson Park in Altoona in front of some big crowds,” he said. “Being in those situations and being with guys around you that are just as talented as you – it kinda humbles you rather than being the guy on your team. It also does help playing in pressure situations because the more you get used to it the more times you’re gonna be successful.”
Things haven’t changed much from his days at Montour with the talented set of wideouts Buechel has to lean on in seniors Gianni Carter and Sean Brady, as well as junior Noel Oduho, among others
”We got a very veteran group of wide receivers, guys who’ve been doing it for a couple years,” he said. “Being able to throw to such veteran guys definitely helps being a young guy myself. I can rely on them for the experience [and] talk to them about what they’re seeing on the field.”
Schmitt says he’s been most impressed with Buechel’s composure through camp and in competitive matchups against Albany and Dayton, who always come to play against the Dukes.
”He’ll keep getting better at it, but he came in with an understanding of a complex offense from his high school days and that helped,” he said. “He played at a competitive level [in high school]. He played a lot more games in the playoffs and played at a high level, played under pressure in playoff situations, and that helps him coming into college being under fire. He’s able to handle that stuff.”
”We could tell from day one when he got here, through practice even this year. A lot of people were surprised, but we knew.”