The Dukes beat Robert Morris today in yet another close game in this series. Perhaps it is true what they say in these sorts of rivalry games – throw out the records and the rest of it, because there’s some pride on the line. There were a lot of former WPIAL athletes on the field in this game, so that hometown vibe definitely shines through.
Regardless, Duquesne is now alone atop the NEC with a 2-0 conference record. The Dukes won largely in the ways that we wanted them to when we examined the five keys, though there were a few rough spots. Let’s have a closer look at the victory over Robert Morris:
Key 1: Capitalize on opportunities
This was a mixed bag. Credit must absolutely be given to the defense and special teams on the pair of safeties that they grabbed – forcing the fumble and also blocking the punt. Another RMU fumble recovered by Zidian (who had another solid performance) gave the offense a chance to respond and they did, by way of a 10 yard connection from Buechel to Carter.
At the same time, the Dukes fumbled the ball during an interception return and that was quickly followed by Robert Morris quarterback Paul Jones rushing for a touchdown to give the Colonials the 7 – 0 lead.
Key 2: Continue to win the field position battle
The weather conditions did lead to some iffy punts (and a few bad snaps didn’t help that either) but for the most part the Dukes did rather well in terms of field position. It was Robert Morris being backed up to their own 9 and 3 yard line that led to the two safeties, and both of those came off of Fleck’s toe. Crimmins did his part, too, as did the coverage unit, forcing some penalties that kept RMU back. There were some problems here, but again, chalk that up the wet and windy weather conditions.
The second half was especially good in this department. The Colonials’ average starting position was their own 21, whereas the Dukes were average was at their own 47.
Key 3: No more picks
Unfortunately, Buechel did have one more interception in this game, and it came at a pretty bad time. This one set up the drive that had Robert Morris in position to tie the game, though a botched extra point prevented that from happening. No way to say it other than that the Dukes were extremely lucky there.
Not to take anything away from the young QB. Buechel played well today, was only sacked twice, and threw the ball to eight different players en route to a 23 – 41 for 202 and 2 TDs kind of day. Not a bad performance. Compare to his Robert Morris counterpart, a BCS transfer who was just 11-22 for 100 yards and a pick.
Key 4: Get them off the field
RMU has had a lot of difficulty converting third downs this year, only keeping drives alive 24% of the time coming into today. The Dukes forced the Colonials to punt on four of their first five drives, but RMU still converted at a much higher clip this game – 38%.
Robert Morris’s offense was also superior to the Dukes in terms of time of possession.
Key 5: Get a plan, stick to it
The Dukes and the Colonials obviously had inverse intentions – Robert Morris was 2/3rds run, 1/3rd pass, and the Dukes were just the opposite. The running game continued to struggle for Duquesne and they clearly wanted to take to the air to make that work. Buechel was off target on a couple of passes, but also didn’t get as much help as he could have at times from his receivers.
The Dukes won in a similar manner as last week – a timely and opportunistic defense, a couple of good scoring drives, and solid special teams play. I don’t think I could look further into this one and identify a plan (in the way that we could see a plan in the 1st quarter of the Wagner game) but the overall broad intentions were there.
- If the Dukes are going to continue to throw like this – and they should – the receivers need to work on their hands, and Buechel needs to be a bit more accurate.
- The defense needs to lock down the run a bit better, because Keshaudas Spence is on the horizon.
- Dorian Bell had a great day today, with a sack and another tackle for a loss as well as a forced fumble. They need a stat line like that from him much more frequently.
- Crimmins missed a field goal, but the snap was suspect. A high snap nearly undid Aaron Fleck at one point too. Both atypical of the way the two play and – again – largely due to the weather.
- Devin Rahming was big again today, leading all receivers in catches and yardage.
The victory over Robert Morris now behind them, Duquesne travels to Rhode Island to face Bryant next week. The Bulldogs are likely reeling from their loss to Sacred Heart on Saturday. Don’t miss our coverage, or the podcast on Tuesday!