by Dave Morus
The defense set the tone with a safety on the first series of the game, and redshirt freshman Dillon Buechel looked stellar as the Dukes never trailed en route to a 35-24 win against their former conference rival Albany.
The poise that Dillon Buechel showed can not be overstated. The young man stood tall in the pocket and never shied away from pressure. He made some very good throws to eight different receivers.
The win included one of the nicest catches that you’ll see all year, as Sean Brady pulled in a pass with one hand and came down with it in the end zone. Poor quality video of the play follows, courtesy of @Kzovko on Twitter:
In all, the Dukes accomplished what they needed to do in order to win this game. Though the offensive line had some lapses late, Dillon usually had more than enough time to throw. Even when there was some pressure, he was not shaken on his way to a 21/28 309 yard performance. The Dukes also did a reasonable job containing the Albany run game, only allowing a net 67 yards on the ground. By contrast, Ryan Ho was able to get some good things going on the ground. While he only gained 76 yards, it came against a defense that prides itself on stuffing the run.
The Albany passing game was effective, but this was inevitable when the run was as stymied as it was. Yards were going to come from somewhere. Fiacchi is a competent passer, but it is not the bread and butter of this Albany team. Eventually it could cost them, and today it did in the guise of three turnovers by quarterbacks.
The special teams were quite good. Last year against the Danes, punting was a problem – two short punts gave Albany a short field and led to two touchdowns. This year, the new punter Fleck was surgical. Multiple times, the Danes were pinned down behind their own ten yard line. The Dukes really did a fine job of taking care of the field position battle. Also to Fleck’s credit was the fake punt in the second quarter, which ultimately led to one of Ryan Ho’s touchdowns. Kick coverage was excellent.
Albany made a lot of mistakes, especially some dumb penalties at inopportune moments. The biggest mistake came late in the fourth quarter, when the Danes still had a (long) shot, as a pass from Will Fiacchi found its way into Rich Piekarski’s hands. After forcing Albany to burn their last time outs, the Dukes kicked a field goal that all but sealed the deal for the game. Piekarski had one more interception as time expired off of a Hail Mary pass from Ryan Smith.
Duquesne needs to make some improvements as well. The defense needs to tackle better. There were multiple occasions where a successful first tackle would have been the difference between a drive stalling and a first down. Still, there were many things to be happy with on both sides of the ball – Buechel, Piekarski, Fleck, Thomas, and Carter among them.
This was exactly the way to start off a season – with a win.
- The Brady catch may be one of the best all year in any league at any level.
- Dorian Bell and the rest of the defense got a lot of pressure on Fiacchi – the stats don’t show it though. Fiacchi may have smeared Crisco on his uniform he was so elusive.
- That said, there were too many occasions that Fiacchi had too much time, and the guy downfield was too wide open. Including the Albany touchdown towards the end of the first half.
- If Fleck punts like this all the time the Duke will be in good shape.
- Buechel and Dave Thomas seemed to have some chemistry. Could be scary…
- Ho only got 76 yards, but last year Larry McCoy was only able to get 73 on this same defense. Ho looks good.
- I’m looking forward to making more puns like PICK-arsky and Ho Yeah!