Loebig passes Dukes to 42-29 victory
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Every time his team lost a little bit of momentum against Iona yesterday, Duquesne quarterback Niel Loebig seemingly dropped back and looked for a wide receiver downfield.
More often than not, he found one.
Loebig completed 18 of 34 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Dukes to a 42-29 victory that extended their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference winning streak to 27 games. The Dukes improved to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the MAAC.
"We've been running the ball great the last couple weeks, and they tried putting eight in the box, and we made them pay for it," said Loebig, who had touchdown throws of 59, 77 and 39 yards. "Our receivers, they run by anybody, so I've just got to make a good throw, and they'll be there."
After a slow start, the Dukes finally got on the scoreboard late in the first quarter when holder Patrick Schrey - a sophomore wide receiver -- ran it in from nine yards out on a fake field goal. Add a pair of quick scoring drives in the second quarter, and it appeared that the visitors would be in for an uneventful afternoon.
But a pair of special teams gaffes by Duquesne helped Iona (2-4, 1-1) get back into the game. First, a snap sailed over the head of punter Joe Maker, who was forced to bat it out of the end zone for a safety. Then freshman James Benson muffed a punt return, and the Gaels' William Montanaro fell on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown that sliced the Dukes' lead to 28-23.
That was as close as Iona would get, however. Regrouping quickly, Loebig directed a four-play scoring drive culminating in a 20-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Mike Hilliard.
After a three-and-out by Iona, Loebig then spotted junior flanker Michel Warfield streaking down the right sideline and hit him for a 39-yard strike that all but ended any hopes for a rally. Warfield finished with three catches for a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns.
"We have a lot of confidence in ourselves offensively," Duquesne coach Greg Gattuso said. "We had a little stutter there, but we thought we could score. We didn't feel like we were going to finish with 28, let's put it that way."
Said Iona coach Fred Mariani: "They have some big-time players over there, and they have the ability to (make big plays). That's one thing we knew about them, and we didn't have any answer for that."
Considering what happened the last time the Dukes visited Mazzella Field -- a wild 62-50 loss in 1999 that was their last league defeat -- Gattuso was just content to escape with a victory.
"We had a lot of crazy stuff happen to us -- tipped passes, bad snaps and blocked kicks -- but we still won," Gattuso said. "I'm proud of the team. These road games are tough. As crazy as the game was going, all I wanted to do was get out of here with a win."