Duquesne dominates Iona, extends winning streak to 30 games
After waiting two agonizing weeks to get back on the field following a tough loss at Fordham, Duquesne figured it could wait another quarter-and-a-half to start playing football.
The Dukes overcame a slow start to rout winless Iona, 42-14, in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game Saturday in front of 2,902 at Rooney Field.
“It took a little while to get rolling,” senior defensive end Ryan Tolan said.
The game was scoreless midway through the second quarter, but the Dukes scored three touchdowns in a span of 5 minutes, 41 seconds to take a 21-0 lead over the upset-minded Gaels (0-5, 0-2), extending their Division I-AA-best conference winning streak to 30 games.
“We’re very young and banged up, and I thought our kids played very hard,” Iona coach Fred Mariani said. “But early in the game, we didn’t take advantage of some situations, and Duquesne is a good football team.”
The Dukes, ranked No. 4 in the NCAA Division I-AA poll, outgained Iona 490 yards to 165, including 249 yards to minus-9 on the ground. They recorded nine sacks and intercepted two passes.
“We were a little sluggish,” Duquesne coach Greg Gattuso said. “But we played well from the second quarter on, and I was pleased with it.”
After four games of using Niel Loebig’s arm and its high-powered passing attack, Duquesne (3-2, 1-0) turned to a sophomore-led running attack against an Iona defense that has allowed 42.8 points per game.
Jeremy McCullough gained a career-high 117 yards on 16 carries, and James Jacobs scored on three short touchdown runs. Even slow-footed Loebig got into the act with a career-best 57 rushing yards on seven carries.
The most prolific passer in Duquesne history entered the game with minus-281 career rushing yards, but broke off runs of nine, 10 and 20 yards and endured some post-game ribbing from his teammates.
Loebig may need to rely on his feet a bit more in the future. Senior wide receiver Michel Warfield left early in the third quarter with a right shoulder injury. He was in noticeable pain, with his arm in a sling after the game. He was scheduled to receive X-rays yesterday.
“Losing Mike was tough,” said Loebig, who completed 19 of 36 for 241 yards and one touchdown. “But we had some young guys step up and make some big catches. That’s what we needed.”
Warfield is one of the nation’s most productive Division I-AA receivers. The senior ranks in the top 10 in receiving yards (118 ypg), receptions (7.0 rpg) and scoring (10.5 ppg). In his absence, the Duquesne fans caught a glimpse of what Gattuso calls the most gifted freshman class in his 12 seasons on the Bluff.
Sophomore Dan Spriggs caught seven passes for 71 yards and one touchdown, and four freshmen — receivers Chris Campbell, Bruce Hocker and Alex Roberson and tight end Calvin Gitter — caught at least one pass.
Gattuso said he has faith in the youngsters, if Warfield is out for an extended period of time.
“Obviously, we’ve had great teams and great talent; that’s why you win,” he said. “But this freshman class is outstanding. They are big and fast and tough.”