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QB Buechel leads Dukes over Albany

| Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 3:57 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Duquesne receiver Gianni Carter scores a touchdown against Albany on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. The Dukes opened their season with a 35-24 win.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Duquesne receiver Gianni Carter makes a catch in front of Albany's Nick Beach (24) and Rayshawn Clark (48) after a reception Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Duquesne receiver Dave Thomas scores when he stretches out for a touchdown as Albany's T.J. Idowu tries unsuccessfully to keep him out of the end zone on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. The Dukes opened their season with a 35-24 win.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Duquesne linebacker Dorian Bell pressures Albany's Will Fiacchi during the game on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. The Dukes opened their season with a 35-24 win.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Duquesne receiver Dave Thomas turns a short pass into an 81-yard gain to the 2-yard line against Albany on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. The Dukes opened their season with a 35-24 win.

By his senior season at Montour in 2011, Dillon Buechel existed on the radar of several major Division I colleges, but only as a prospect.

Offers from the BCS-level programs never followed, and Buechel ultimately chose Duquesne as the place to showcase his 6-foot-3, 176-pound frame and elite skills.

The Buechel era on the Bluff began well Saturday afternoon, as the redshirt freshman quarterback made his first career start for the Dukes (1-0) and finished with 309 passing yards and two touchdowns in a 35-24 win over former Northeast Conference rival Albany (0-1) at Arthur J. Rooney Field.

Buechel, who edged senior Marty Mitchell for the starting job, made quite a statement as the successor of Sean Patterson, a 2012 graduate who started 33 consecutive games.

“I'm sure some of the guys who've been around were a little iffy about what they'd see out of me today,” said Buechel, who completed 21 of 28 pass attempts. “But hopefully going forward, we'll have a lot more confidence.”

The win over Albany was just the second in Duquesne's seven games with the Great Danes, who left the NEC for the Colonial Athletic Association after the 2012 season.

Within the game's first six minutes, Duquesne led, 9-0, thanks to a safety and a 1-yard Ryan Ho touchdown run.

Ho added a 25-yard touchdown run to extend Duquesne's lead to 16-3 midway through the second quarter.

“We've been in camp for four weeks and we were pretty fired up, and I was worried a little bit about a spike in their emotion right away,” Dukes coach Jerry Schmitt said. “But you couldn't ask for anything better than a couple points and to get the ball back out of it.”

After a first quarter in which Albany gained just 43 yards, the Great Danes began to click. Junior quarterback Will Fiacchi completed eight of 11 pass attempts for 114 yards in the second quarter. Running the two-minute drill, he guided Albany into to the end zone just before halftime.

Fiacchi finished with 346 passing yards and two touchdowns.

“We had a lot of success with some screens, and then, like all good football teams, they adjusted and started to shut the screen game down,” Albany coach Bob Ford said. “We probably, looking back, should've gone deeper more times.”

Not to be outdone, Buechel showcased his downfield throwing ability — and his wide receiver corps' exceptional depth — during a dominant third quarter for the Dukes.

“We couldn't be happier,” senior wide receiver Sean Brady said. “I know he's young and I know he's a redshirt freshman, but to come in and just lead us down the field time after time, especially after Sean Patterson, it was just unbelievable.

“You'd think a guy like that would be nervous, but not at all. He's got a little cockiness to him, which is a really good thing at quarterback. You need that. You don't want a guy as a freshman who's a little scared to go in there and make plays. … He goes in there, and he doesn't care how old he is. He knows what he's doing.”

The opening drive of the second half ended with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Buechel to Brady, who leapt, twisted and caught the ball with one hand and absorbed contact when he landed at the goal line.

Following a sack-fumble recovery that started Duquesne's next drive at Albany's 29, Buechel lobbed a perfect post pattern to senior Gianni Carter, who hauled in the ball for a 29-yard touchdown to put the Dukes ahead, 29-10.

“They've made big plays in big games,” Buechel said of his wideouts, “and for me to be able to lean on that as a redshirt freshman, it's just a great thing to have up here.”

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