Rich Donahue | The Duquesne Duke
A week removed from a loss in their conference home opener and at starting quarterback, the Duquesne football team entered their matchup against the Alderson-Broaddus Battlers with great uncertainty.
With their season in jeopardy following quarterback Dillon Buechel’s injury a week ago against Sacred Heart, the Dukes took the field Saturday under the helms of backup Ryan Egolf.
The Dukes answered emphatically that one injury would not derail their conference title hopes when senior wide receiver Devin Rahming took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The Dukes did not look back from there and upended their Division II opponent 48-27.
The win gives the Dukes a 5-3 record on the season and the 48 points is the most scored by the program since 2011.
Afterwards, coach Jerry Schmitt said that the team put together its best performance of the season.
“I thought we executed for more of this game than we did all season even in our other wins,” Schmitt said.
With Buechel out, Schmitt handed the reins of the offense over to Ryan Egolf. The sophomore, who transferred to Duquesne from Towson this season, came on in relief for the Dukes last week after Buechel sustained an upper rib injury early in the game.
Egolf’s three passing touchdowns were not enough for the Dukes to beat Sacred Heart, but it did showcase what the backup quarterback could deliver. In his first career start as a college quarterback, Egolf put together another solid performance, tailing 229 yards through the air and two passing touchdowns. He also scored on a two yard run in the fourth quarter.
After the game, a reassured Egolf thanked his offensive teammates for sticking with him.
“These guys rallied behind me and stuck with me,” Egolf said. “All the credit goes to the offensive line, wide receivers and running backs, they made it happen.”
Despite the solid performance, Egolf’s special moment almost became a nightmare. With Duquesne up 14 points late in the third quarter, Egolf dropped back for a pass and was hit hard by a Battler defender as he released the football. Egolf’s arid pass was intercepted by AB defensive back Donovan Olumba, who returned the interception back 47 yards for a touchdown. The pick six cut the Dukes’ lead to 34-27.
Down but not out, Egolf would lead the Dukes on a statement making 13-play 72-yard drive that ended with a two-yard rushing touchdown from Egolf. He called the drive the difference maker in the game and credited his teammates for continuing to believe in him.
“It was huge,” Egolf said. “That was a mistake by me and for those guys to stay with me and keep having faith in me to go down and get a huge score was big for us.”
The win was not only a confidence builder for Egolf, but for the offensive line and rushing attack as well. Coming into the contest, the Duquesne running game was averaging roughly 104 yards per game and netted only 54 yards in last week’s loss. Against the Battlers, it was a different story. The Dukes bruised the Battlers for 222 yards on the ground, mainly with a combination of senior Ryan Ho and freshman Rafiq Douglas. Ho led the Dukes in rushing with 74 yards and two scores on 18 carries, and also hauled in a 51-yard screen pass from Egolf that set up one of his two touchdowns. Douglas gained 72 yards on a team-high 20 carries.
The Dukes will resume NEC play this week as they travel to St. Francis University to take on the Red Flashes. Last season, the Dukes defeated the Red Flashes (3-5) 21-10 at Rooney Field.
Coach Schmitt kept his mindset for the Red Flashes short and sweet following Saturday’s victory.
“Go up and execute like we did today and have fun,” he said.