After five long years, Duquesne football has finally claimed another NEC conference championship.
The Dukes (7-4, 6-1 NEC) defeated Merrimack (5-6, 4-3 NEC) to win their sixth NEC title. Duquesne also punched its ticket to the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 2018.
While the game was tight throughout the entire first half, the Dukes’ came out of halftime ready to play, scoring two unanswered touchdowns to walk away with the 26-14 victory.
Junior quarterback Darius Perrantes led the Dukes in the win, throwing for 218 yards and three touchdowns.
The Dukes’ defense also came in clinch in the win over Merrimack. Duquesne held Warriors junior quarterback Malakai Anthony to just 68 passing yards and nine completions. The Warriors managed to gain a little more on the ground, rushing for 148 total yards as a team. But it just wasn’t enough to overcome the stout Dukes’ defense.
Duquesne struck first midway through the first quarter, as Perrantes connected with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Keshawn Brown for a long 38-yard touchdown pass to put the Dukes’ up 7-0. But Anthony eventually responded to the Dukes’ touchdown in the second quarter, rushing 20-yards into the endzone to tie the game at 7-7 for the Warriors.
But the Dukes’ quickly rebounded, as Perrantes found Brown again for the pair’s second touchdown of the day. The duo’s efforts gave the Dukes’ a 14-7 lead.
Right before halftime, the Warriors managed to tie the game once more. This time, Warriors junior running back Tyvon Edmonds punched the ball in from 4 yards to tie the game at 14-14.
With the game tied at halftime, Duquesne knew it needed to make adjustments in the locker room to overcome the Warriors.
The Dukes ultimately dominated the second half on both sides of the ball. Duquesne’s defense especially came up big after halftime, holding the Warriors to just 61 total yards of offense in the pivotal second half.
Near the end of the thrid quarter, Perrantes connected with graduate student wide receiver DJ Powell, giving the Dukes’ the 20-14 lead. Duquesne then padded its lead in the fourth quarter, as freshman running back Edward Robinson sprinted ten yards into the endzone to clinch the 26-14 lead.
Duquense will now advance to the FCS Playoffs as an automatic bid out of the NEC conference. The Dukes will learn who their next opponent is tomorrow during the FCS Championship selection show. The show is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m.