PITTSBURGH Pa. — After a heartbreaking overtime loss last week to Long Island University, Duquesne came out on the other side with a 35-28 OT win over Sacred Heart (4-5) on Saturday at Arthur J. Rooney Field.
“It’s been a very up and down year for us, and we haven’t really finished a game off yet, so today has been really good for us just as a team to be able to pull one out in OT,” Duquesne quarterback Joe Mischler said. “We don’t want to go to OT, but it is what is. Crazy stuff happens in the NEC, especially on The Bluff. Every game is interesting. We played really hard and that’s why I think we pulled it out today. Everybody just kept on believing.”
Mischler was efficient against Sacred Heart, completing 18 of 28 passes for 209 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
With time winding down, Mischler completed a strike over the middle to Joey Isabella for 37 yards, but he fumbled and Jason McCleod Jr. came up with the loose ball. Sacred Heart took over from their own 27-yard line. Duquesne would have been set up for a game-winning field goal attempt had Isabella not fumbled. McCleod didn’t even strip the ball, as Isabella just lost control. Sacred Heart quarterback Marquez McCray was unable to get Sacred Heart in field goal range, which meant the game had to be decided in overtime.
The Dukes struck first in overtime, as Lucas bulldozed his way for an 8-yard touchdown to put Duquesne up 35-28. On fourth-and-1 from the 16-yard line, Roy McCoy got stuffed on a read-option, and the Dukes secured the win. Duquesne is now 3-6 on the season and 2-3 in conference play.
“Really just our O-line opened up a good hole, and just hitting it 100 miles per hour,” Lucas said about his 8-yard touchdown run in overtime. Just looking at the end zone, trying to score, trying to get in there. Doing whatever I can to help the team get a win.”
Lucas had a standout performance, rushing for 170 yards on 30 carries (5.7 average) and two touchdowns.
Sacred Heart got on the scoreboard first, as running back Malik Grant capped a long methodical drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to put the Pioneers up 7-0 with 9:55 remaining in the first quarter. The Dukes responded with a long drive of their own that got finished by a Lucas 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7. A couple of big runs by Lucas and completions from Mischler to Dwayne Menders Jr. set up the Dukes inside the 5-yard line.
Sacred Heart got the ball down to the Dukes’ 34-yard line on the ensuing possession, but McCray’s pass intended for Devin Young fell incomplete on fourth-and-1, resulting in a turnover on downs. On third-and-13, Mischler found Nick Leopold over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown to put the Dukes up 14-7 with 14:07 left in the second quarter. It was a 6-play, 54-yard scoring drive by the Dukes.
Sacred Heart responded with a promising drive, but it came to a halt at the Dukes’ 20-yard line after a sack by Clemente Ojinnaka. The Pioneers came away with no points on the possession, as Sam Renzi missed a 37-yard field goal. Sacred Heart traveled 67 yards down the field on just five plays to even the score at 14-14 with 1:13 remaining in the first half. McCray connected to Rob DiNota for a 15-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone. Both teams traded possessions and went it halftime tied at 14-14.
Duquesne failed to convert on fourth-and-1 from their own 48-yard line on its opening possession of the second half. DeMarcus Ware got hit in the backfield but on a second effort managed to get to just inches away from the line to gain. On third-and-7 from Sacred Heart’s 36-yard line, Mischler completed a 26-yard pass to Isabella down the right sideline on a go route. A few plays later, Mischler connected to Logan Lutz on a tight end dump pass for a 1-yard touchdown to put the Dukes up 21-14 with 6:48 left in the third quarter.
McCoy replaced McCray at quarterback near the end of the third quarter, and the adjustment paid off for Sacred Heart. McCoy scampered down the right sideline for a 46-yard touchdown off a read-option to tie the game at 21-21. The Dukes answered with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that got capped by Mischler on a 3-yard touchdown run to put Duquesne up 28-21 with 10:52 remaining in the game. The Dukes took 6:18 off the clock on the scoring drive.
After getting a third-down sack to give the ball back to the Pioneers, McCray led Sacred Heart down the field and connected to Kenneth Womack for a 14-yard touchdown to tie the game at 28-28 with 1:22 left in the fourth quarter. Womack caught a quick slant over the middle and powered his way into the end zone. Sacred Heart rotated McCray and McCoy at quarterback in the second half.
Duquesne’s next game is on Saturday, Nov. 12 against Saint Francis University (Pa.) on the road. Kickoff is at 12 p.m. and it can be streamed on Front Row Sports.
The Dukes are hoping to finish the season on a positive note against Saint Francis and Wagner.
“It just feels good to get downhill, keep going and keep pushing,” Lucas said. “Try to just build off this (win) and try to finish the season off strong.”