Pittsburgh – Quarterback Darius Perrantes led Duquesne on a game-winning drive to defeat Central Connecticut State, 31-27, on Saturday afternoon at Arthur J. Rooney Field. The Dukes are now 6-3 on the season and 4-2 in the NEC.
With 1:50 remaining and the Dukes trailing 27-24, Perrantes needed to drive the Dukes 61 yards down the field to win the game. On third-and-20, Perrantes completed to Davie Henderson for a 30-yard catch-and-run. And on the next play, Perrantes scrambled to his left and connected to Cyrus Holder for a 30-yard touchdown to give the Dukes a 31-27 lead with 29 seconds remaining.
“To be honest, it was too much time for us,” Perrantes said about the game-winning drive. “Our offense, we can be fast-paced, move the ball whenever we want to. Obviously, we had a turnover earlier in the game. That’s my fault, personally. But it was a great overall victory. I love how my team plays for each other.”
Even with no timeouts left, Perrantes said he was thinking about a touchdown the whole time, instead of just getting in field goal range to set up a game-tying kick.
“I was brought here to win (and) that’s what I’m going to keep doing,” said Perrantes, who transferred to Duquesne from Rhode Island.
Perrantes finished the game completing 24 of 48 passes for 329 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Holder was the Dukes’ leading receiver with five receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown. Henderson had six receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
Perrentes led Duquesne down the field on their opening possession, but the drive stalled and the Dukes settled for a 31-yard field goal by Andrew Smith to take a 3-0 lead.
Central Connecticut answered early in the second quarter with a Joe Zoppi 33-yard field goal to tie the score up at 3-3. Starting quarterback Romelo Williams suffered an injury on the drive and was replaced by Shon Mitchell, who’s a graduate student from William & Mary. Mitchell made a few big plays on the possession to lead the Blue Devils into Duquesne’s red zone. Williams didn’t return to the game.
Following Central Connecticut’s nine-minute drive, Perrantes got the Dukes to the Blue Devils 8-yard line after a 30-yard completion down the seam to Wykeen Gill. The promising drive came to a halt, however, as Perrentes attempted a fade pass to Cyrus Holder in the end zone and was picked off by Kaiyon Gunn.
On the first play after Gunn’s interception, Mitchell completed to Tyshaun James for a 48-yard gain. Two plays later, Mitchell connected to tight end Theo Zidor for a 25-yard touchdown to give Central Connecticut a 10-3 lead with 10:31 remaining in the second quarter.
Mitchell’s connection to James continued on Central Connecticut’s next possession, as Mitchell completed to James for a touchdown off play-action to extend the Blue Devils lead to 17-3 with 5:54 left in the first half. James was wide open on the play.
The Dukes went three-and-out on two consecutive drives in the second quarter. On both possessions, Perrantes failed to connect to Holder on deep passes on third down.
With Duquesne struggling to get anything going offensively late in the second quarter, the Dukes ran a fake punt with Michael Berarducci from their own 27-yard line that resulted in a first down. Berarducci scampered down the left sidelines for a gain of 19 yards.
The fake punt by Berarducci gave the Dukes a spark, as Perrantes led Duquesne down the field and capped off the drive by completing to Henderson in the back right corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown to cut Central Connecticut’s lead to 17-10 with 10 seconds left in the first half.
Mitchell was 9 of 13 for 193 yards with two touchdowns in the first half, while Perrantes completed 12 of 25 passes for 178 yards with one touchdown and an interception. The Dukes struggled to run the ball in the first half, as they rushed for just 38 yards on 10 carries, and 19 of those yards came from Berarducci on the fake punt.
On Central Connecticut’s opening possession of the second half, the Blue Devils ran a quarterback sneak with Mitchell from their own 49-yard line on fourth-and-1 and the Dukes came up with a big stop to force a turnover on downs.
The offense capitalized off the defensive stop and Perrantes completed to Henderson on a slant for a 10-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17-17 with 8:14 left in the third quarter. The Dukes scored 14 unanswered points after trailing 17-3 late in the second quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Central Connecticut put together a drive that displayed a heavy dosage of running back Nasir Smith. The Blue Devils got into Dukes’ territory, but the drive stalled and Zoppi nailed a field goal to put Central Connecticut up 20-17 with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Dukes responded with a Billy Lucas 2-yard touchdown to retake the lead at 24-20 with 10:14 remaining in the game. Gill gave the Dukes great field position, as he returned the kickoff to the 43-yard line and a late hit penalty added 15 yards to the play.
Central Connecticut came right back, as Kyren Petteway returned the kickoff for a 61-yard touchdown to give the Blue Devils a 27-24 lead. Midway through the fourth quarter, Smith was set up for a game-tying field goal from 40 yards out, but the kick went wide left.
On third-and-8 with 3:00 minutes left, Mitchell scrambled for a first down and slid, but Duquesne was called for a late hit and Central Connecticut was rewarded an automatic first down.
On third-and-6 from the Dukes’ 39-yard line and the game on the line, defensive lineman Maxi Hradecny had a strip-sack on Mitchell and the loose ball was recovered by cornerback Tim Lowery.
The offense took advantage of the strip-sack by Hradecny and drove down the field thanks to two big completions by Perrantes. After a 30-yard completion to Henderson, Perrantes went for the win and found Holder in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown to give the Dukes a 31-27 lead with 29 seconds left in the game.
“There was a little backside pressure, the corner was facing (Holder), just got to give him a chance,” Perrantes said about the game-winning touchdown to Holder.
Duquesne finishes their season next Saturday against Wagner in Staten Island N.Y. The game can be streamed on NEC Front Row or ESPN 3.