Thanks to back-to-back losses to Monmouth and Robert Morris, the Northeast Conference showdown between the Duquesne Dukes and Albany Great Danes lost a little bit of its luster.
Coming into the season, many projected this to decide the NEC champion, but that wasn’t the case.
Jerry Schmitt’s Dukes couldn’t snap their skid and were outplayed on both sides of the ball in the first half as Albany ruined senior day for the Dukes, scoring early and often, en route to a 38-31 victory to keep the Great Danes in the hunt for the NEC championship.
This Duquesne team has played Dr. Jekyll – Mr. Hyde all season, often getting off to slow starts in the first half only to rally in the second half and Saturday was no exception as Albany jumped out to a 35-7 halftime lead, only to see the Dukes storm back in the second half, outscoring the Great Danes 24-3.
However the Dukes ran out of time and their rally fell short.
“It seems like it’s the same story every week,” said senior quarterback Sean Patterson. “We just didn’t do enough early on to put us in a position to win the game.”
Duquesne went three-and-out with their opening possession and Albany started chewing up the Dukes defense the first time they got the ball, going on a 14-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a Drew Smith one-yard touchdown run.
The Duquesne defense managed to force a couple of punts in the first quarter, but couldn’t do much to stop the Great Danes in a 28 point second quarter as Albany found the end zone in four of their final five possessions before halftime.
Omar Osbourne scored on a three yard run to make it 14-0, but the Dukes answered with a Larry McCoy two-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession.
The Duquesne defense forced a punt and the Dukes got the ball with some momentum at their own five-yard line, but the offense went three-and-out and the Albany offense went to work.
A horrible 24-yard punt from Charlie Leventry started Albany out at the Duquesne 34-yard line and one play later, wide receiver Kevin Chillis made a highlight reel run to give the Great Danes a 21-7 edge.
It looked like a simple option play, but quarterback Will Fiacchi’s pitch was way behind Chillis. Chillis made a nice play to just catch the pitch, and then nearly fumbled before reversing field and running sideline-to-sideline before cutting back down the right sideline for a 34-yard touchdown.
“It was just a case of we had him pinned and everyone was pursuing one way,” said Schmitt. “Then he was able to change directions and we weren’t able to get a good angle to make the play.”
Following the spectacular run by Chillis, the Dukes went three-and-out, which the Great Danes turned into a 76-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 10-yard run from Fiacchi.
Right before the first half ended, Leventry had a punt partially blocked by Albany linebacker Jon Morgan, who also had a first quarter interception. A couple of plays later, Fiacchi hit Cole King with a 23-yard touchdown pass to make it 35-7.
Albany got it done on the ground and rushed for 221 yards in the first half, while they had success shutting down McCoy as well, limiting the Dukes’ all-time leading rusher to only 21 first half yards. They didn’t just have success against McCoy as the Great Danes outgained the Dukes 315-141 through the game’s first 30 minutes.
Some of that could have been that the Dukes were playing without linebacker Dorian Bell, who missed the game with an injury.
“Not having Dorian out there was a big part of it, but we are banged up,” said Schmitt. “We are out there using our young third string defensive end. But I thought we adjusted well and I am proud of the heart this team showed.
But like they always do, Schmitt’s team didn’t throw in the towel and got back into things in the second half.
The Dukes started chipping away early in the third quarter when Charles Lipp blocked an Albany punt. One play later, Dukes’ quarterback Sean Patterson hit Gianni Carter with a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it a three score game.
Playing his final home game, Patterson finished 18-of-38 for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he was also intercepted twice and sacked four times.
“Yeah it was very emotional coming in,” said Patterson. “I love these guys and I love playing here. I’m really going to miss it.”
The Dukes then recovered a Fiacchi fumble but went three-and-out. The defense got the Duquesne offense the ball back in great field position, but Patterson was picked off by Clay Harris, which proved costly.
Not getting points on that drive ultimately hurt Duquesne, but it also hurt that the Dukes did not punch it in with a first-and-goal situation from the four on their next drive.
But Duquesne recovered the onside kick and then Patterson hit Noel Oduho with a 48-yard pass to set the Dukes up in golden position, but trailing but three touchdowns, Schmitt elected to kick the field goal instead of going for the touchdown on fourth down.
Patterson cut it to a 35-24 game with a four-yard touchdown run on Duquesne’s next drive, so only coming away with three points on the two prior drives proved big.
After a field goal from Albany, Patterson directed the Dukes on another scoring drive to make it 38-31, this time hitting Sean Brady with a 10-yard scoring strike. The drive was made possible by McCoy breaking a long run.
“They are a good team and came in with the game plan of stopping the run, which most teams do,” said Duquesne’s all-time leading rusher. “I’m just very proud of the heart we showed. We seniors gave the guys a good talking to at halftime and this can be a lesson to the underclassmen of how to never quit. But it is emotional. I love everything about playing here and I will miss it.”
That’s a sentiment that Schmitt shared as well as this senior class is one of the more productive ones in program history.
“I will miss them for sure,” added Schmitt. “I will certainly miss them as football players, but I will miss all of them as people even more. They are just a great class of quality young men.”
Photo Credit: Duquesne