Rich Donahue | The Duquesne Duke
Another chapter in the heartbreaking season for the Duquesne football team unfolded Saturday afternoon at Rooney Field.
Trailing No. 21 Bryant 20-17 with less than a minute left, the Dukes lined up for a 28-yard field goal. Sophomore kicker Austin Crimmins converted a kick from the same distance in the second quarter to bring the Dukes within three, but as cruel fate would have it, Crimmins missed the kick by mere inches, unraveling any hope of tying the game or climbing back into the NEC title chase.
The loss drops the Dukes’ record to 5-5, and 1-3 in conference. Bryant remains perfect in the NEC at 4-0 and 8-1 overall.
Coach Jerry Schmitt praised his team for fighting until the final whistle.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Schmitt said. “We played really well for 60 minutes and we just didn’t get the bounces to finish off the game.”
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Egolf started his third straight game with Dillon Buechel still out with a shoulder injury. Down 14-7 midway through the first quarter, Egolf was pulled in favor of sophomore Mike LoPresti after struggling on the previous drive. LoPresti made an immediate impact on his first drive, capping an eight-play, 47-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Chris King.
LoPresti had been an option for the last couple of games, according to Schmitt.
“We had planned to use Mike because he presents a different challenge, but we did not use him,” Schmitt said. “He got in there today and got it going so we went with it.”
LoPresti converted 11 of 27 passes for 182 yards in the loss, while racking up 22 yards on the ground on 10 carries. The James Madison transfer said he had a very clear mindset once he went in for Egolf.
“I just wanted do my job, take care of the ball, not force things and just go with the flow,” LoPresti said. “I ran the offense the way the coaches wanted.”
As the offense jelled under their new signal caller, the defense wrestled with a balanced Bryant attack that seemed to show no fear at times. Bryant converted three fourth downs on five attempts in the game. Their biggest conversion came on a fourth and three from the Duquesne 23-yard line. Bulldogs quarterback Dalton Easton found running back Ricardo McCray in the back of the end zone for what was the deciding score of the game, putting Bryant up 20-14.
Freshmen linebacker Nate Stone, who recorded 12 total tackles in the loss, said that the defense failed to come up big in those fourth down situations
“We just need to find a better way to finish,” Stone said.
The Dukes not only missed opportunities on defense, but on the offensive side of the ball as well. Midway through the third quarter, Wayne Capers lined up in the Wildcat again from the Bryant 12-yard line. Capers found a hole in the Bulldog defensive front and looked to have his second rushing touchdown of the day. But Capers never reached the end zone, as he was stripped by Robert Rutland at the Bryant 2-yard line. Michael Johnson recovered the fumble in the end zone and ran in it out to the Bryant 10-yard line, thwarting the Duquesne threat.
With a shot at a NEC title now out of reach, the Dukes will be playing for pride the rest of the way. This weekend the Dukes will travel to Staten Island for an NEC matchup with the Wagner Seahawks (5-4). The Dukes will conclude their season at home on November 21st against cross-town rival and NEC foe Robert Morris.