The Dukes gave the game away starting in the 3rd quarter via a turnover party, and that’s basically the story. In many ways, this game was similar to the WLU game, except it was against a much better team and it lacked the defensive touchdowns. Let’s take a look at what happened in comparison to our five keys to victory.
Key 1. Don’t give Jordan Harris an inch.
Jordan Harris gained 91 yards and accounted for over half of Bryant’s passing yardage. Not much else to say here.
Key 2. Backfield Contact
The Dukes got one sack, and Bryant had three. Duquesne did better than Bryant in terms of tackles for a loss, but giving up three picks and a couple of fumbles will have a way of negating those sorts of statistics.
Key 3. Accurate throws, no drops
Three interceptions, and a number of on-target balls that were dropped or bounced off of a Duke’s chest. One of the fumbles came just after the catch was made and the receiver established possession and led to a Bryant touchdown. Drives stalled out around the 30 yet again. When the running game is going to be as shaky as it is – though it was somewhat better for this game – the passing game must come through and it isn’t.
Key 4. Field Position!
Fleck had one punt inside the 20. Duquesne started at midfield or better twice, Bryant five times. Major contributing factor to poor field position: turnovers. Can’t win the battle when you’re giving up the ball.
5. Keep Buechel Upright
As mentioned earlier, Buechel was sacked three times and Westerhaus only once. When Bryant gets to the quarterback, they win games. Well, Bryant got to the quarterback. Guess what happened?
In all the Dukes squandered a lot of opportunities. That much is plain just to see how many turnovers were given up in the second half alone. In another drive, Duquesne had a field goal blocked and then Bryant scored a touchdown – that’s a 10 point swing. It wasn’t the difference in the game, but any points are contributing factors. The Bulldogs scored 21 points off of turnovers, either directly or on the ensuing drive. Duquesne didn’t have a chance playing this way.
This is a pretty poor performance against a team that was on its way down and was still without both of its feature running backs. The Dukes had the opportunity to take control of the NEC on Saturday, especially considering another Sacred Heart loss. Now, it’s a crowded top of the conference and the Dukes will need to win out to have any chance of holding or sharing the title.