Duquesne defense excels in win over Robert Morris
With near-constant rain and wind affecting both offenses, Duquesne turned to its defense and special teams to perform Saturday against Robert Morris.
Those players happily obliged. The Dukes shut out Robert Morris in the second half, and the special teams made several key plays in a 16-7 Northeast Conference victory at Joe Walton Stadium.
“Obviously, you want to come out as a defense every day and do that,” said Carter Henderson, who had a sack and blocked a punt to set up the first score of the game in the second quarter. “We just try to do our job and make plays.”
The defense made plenty, sacking Robert Morris quarterback Matthew Barr five times and intercepting him twice. Austin Crimmins kicked three field goals, with the third giving Duquesne (5-3, 2-1) the lead for good in the second half.
After shutting out Robert Morris last season, the Dukes held the Colonials to just one second-quarter touchdown. In the fourth quarter, they forced an interception, two turnovers on downs and a three-and-out to seal the victory. Christian Kuntz finished with a team-high eight tackles and 2 1⁄2 sacks.
“(Robert Morris has) a really good defense; they always present problems, and they always play well,” Duquesne coach Jerry Schmitt said.
The Dukes' offense did just enough, as Rafiq Douglas rushed for 172 yards on 32 carries and Dillon Buechel threw a touchdown pass to Nehari Crawford in the fourth quarter for insurance.
The weather played a factor, as both teams had trouble getting their passing game going.
Douglas, usually one of three running backs to get work for Duquesne, carried the load Saturday because of injuries to Klartel Claridy and P.J. Fulmore. He had 81 yards in the first half and added 91 in the second half.
“If you keep getting the ball, you start to get hot,” Douglas said. “You definitely start to gain a rhythm and adjust to the defense and the way the defense plays when you stay in.”
Sophomore Cole Blake rushed for 117 yards for Robert Morris, but the Colonials (2-5, 1-2) couldn't hold their 7-6 halftime lead.
“We've just got to finish,” Blake said. “If we play the same way in the second half that we play in the first half, we stay in the lead and win the game.”
Barr, returning to the lineup for the first time since suffering an injury to his non-throwing shoulder Sept. 26 at South Dakota State, completed 7 of 26 passes for 84 yards and two interceptions.
“We just never really got it going in the second half,” Robert Morris coach John Banaszak said. “It's hard to win a football game by scoring only seven points, especially in the Northeast Conference and against that football team.”
The teams played to a scoreless tie in the first quarter, with Robert Morris forcing Crawford to fumble inside the 5-yard line on a long pass and Gaston Cooper intercepting Barr in Duquesne territory.
Henderson helped break the stalemate in the second quarter. After Robert Morris punter Adam Check dropped a low snap, Henderson broke through the line and partially blocked the kick. Duquesne took over at the 19 and scored on Crimmins' 29-yard field goal.
“You just want to go after him,” Henderson said. “You want to tackle him, and you don't want him to get the punt off.”
Robert Morris responded late in the second quarter. Malik Wells returned a punt 22 yards to the Colonials' 47, and Barr's 29-yard completion to Nic Lamica set up Rameses Owens' 5-yard scoring run.
Crimmins kicked a 45-yard field goal to make it 7-6 at halftime, then booted a 44-yarder to give the Dukes a 9-7 lead in the third quarter.
Buechel's 40-yard completion to Chris King set up his 8-yard touchdown pass to Crawford in the back of the end zone early in the fourth quarter. The Dukes' defense did the rest.
“It's always good to win this game against Robert Morris,” Schmitt said. “It's always a battle. It's always a tough game. No matter where the teams are in the standings, it doesn't matter.”