Duquesne edges Robert Morris, 21-20
While Robert Morris welcomed alumni back to its Moon campus Saturday, another kind of homecoming occurred at Joe Walton Stadium.
Dillon Buechel, Phil Peckich and Aaron Reed, all from nearby Montour, shaped the outcome of Duquesne's 21-20 win over the host Colonials (2-4, 0-1), whose missed extra point with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter made the difference in the Northeast Conference contest.
Buechel, a redshirt freshman quarterback for the Dukes (4-2, 2-0), completed 23-of-41 pass attempts for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Reed, a redshirt freshman inside linebacker, finished with five tackles and an interception.
“I watched a lot of games up here, and it feels good to come back and play around here in the Steel City rivalry — that's what they call it, anyway,” Reed said.
Peckich, a junior and former defensive back for the Colonials, appeared at running back for the first time this season and gained 41 yards on eight carries for an offense that had 135 yards on the ground. Two years older than Reed and Buechel, Peckich initially attended Pitt, where he was a walk-on for two years, and transferred to Robert Morris this spring.
“I think I got him once, but he made a couple nice cuts,” Reed said, “so I didn't get to smack him too much.”
Another product of Pittsburgh's western suburbs, Robert Morris junior quarterback Paul Jones — a Sto-Rox grad — completed 11 of 22 for 100 yards and also rushed for a 41 yards and two touchdowns.
Jones scored the game's first touchdown on a 4-yard bootleg to the left with 9:34 left in the second quarter. Three plays earlier, he threw an interception at Duquesne's 13-yard line to Reed, who lost control of the ball during his return. Offensive lineman Nick Faraci fell on the fumble to revive Robert Morris' drive.
Dukes junior defensive back Charles Lipp broke through the line on fourth down and blocked Robert Morris' punt in the Colonials' end zone for a safety with 10:27 left in the third quarter.
The ensuing Duquesne drive ended with a 40-yard field goal by Austin Crimmins.
During RMU's next possession, Jones fumbled after being hit by linebacker Dorian Bell, and the Dukes' Zach Zidian recovered at the Colonials' 10. One play later, Buechel connected with Gianni Carter for a 10-yard touchdown that put Duquesne ahead 12-.
The Colonials took another safety with 3:26 left in the third quarter. A bad quarterback-running back exchange led to a fumble in Robert Morris' end zone.
Buechel extended Duquesne's lead just before the end of the quarter with a 26-yard touchdown throw to Devin Rahming.
“At the end of the day, it's an NEC conference win, but there is some bragging rites, and after the end of the season, we'll be messing around with each other,” Buechel said of the rivalry.
Jones fueled a 71-yard touchdown drive that cut Robert Morris' deficit to 21-14 early in the fourth quarter. He completed 3-of-5 pass attempts for 22 yards in the drive and scrambled 24 yards to set up Deontae Howard's 1-yard touchdown run.
A 1-yard sneak for a score by Jones gave Robert Morris a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but Hunter Khaleghi kicked the extra point wide.
Robert Morris' loss meant that Colonials coach Joe Walton, who will step down at the end of the season after 20 years in charge, finishes with a 7-8 all-time record against Duquesne.
“I think it's a friendly rivalry, and it's good for both schools,” Walton said. “It helps recruiting and generates a lot of interest. I think it's great, and I hope Robert Morris and Duquesne are playing 20 years from now.”