PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Senior Keenan Thompson set a program record with four touchdown receptions but Duquesne rallied for a 24-7 deficit to defeat the Bryant University football, 35-31, on Saturday afternoon at Rooney Field.
With the loss, the Bulldogs fall to 3-5 overall and to 2-2 in Northeast Conference play. The Dukes snapped a three-game losing streak to the Black and Gold to improve to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in league play. It marked the third time this season the Bulldogs have lost a game in which they led by at least three scores.
Thompson became the first player in program history to have four touchdown receptions, finishing with six catches for 89 yards. He is also the first player since Jordan Brown in 2010 to score as many as four touchdowns in a single game. Classmate Dalton Easton (Miami, Fla.) finished 18-of-33 for 230 yards and four touchdowns but was sacked four times.
Defensively, freshman Jesse Nemerowicz (Hudson, Mass.) led the team with 11 tackles, while sophomore Thomas Costigan (Stamford, Conn.) and senior Marquise Watson (Hillside, N.J.) each had 10 tackles. Costigan played one of the best games of his career, recording a strip sack and an interception that led to 14 points.
Duquesne out-gained the Bulldogs 495-257 and had the ball for over 36 minutes. Blair Roberts matched Thompson with four TD receptions, finishing with eight catches for 153 yards, while A.J. Hines rushed for 147 yards for 30 yards and a touchdown. The Dukes finished 10-for-17 on third downs.
The Bulldogs went 97 yards in 10 plays, their longest scoring drive of the year, to take a 7-0 lead. Sophomore Brenden Femiano (Northport, N.Y.) broke off a 21-yard run to get the Bulldogs out of the shadow of their endzone and junior Matt Sewall (Portsmouth, R.I.) made a 19-yard reception on 3rd-and-7 to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, Easton fired to Thompson over the middle and the burly wideout raced down the Duquesne sideline and broke a tackle at the five to go in for the score.
Duquesne quickly responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game. Roberts was the man on the drive, making three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. He made a 26-yard reception to put the ball in the redzone and then hauled in a 15-yard TD pass to tie the game with 3:01 left in the first quarter.
Bryant went on to score the next 17 points, opening up a 24-7 lead in the second quarter. Tied 7-7, redshirt freshman Jean Constant (Delray Beach, Fla.) made a 26-yard catch on third down to extend the drive and a pass interference call put the ball at the Duquesne 5. Bryant, however, wasn’t able to punch the ball in and settled for a 26-yard field goal from senior Ricky Perez (Miami, Fla.).
Costigan then took the game over by himself. After senior Drew Chretien (Coventry, R.I.) pinned the Dukes inside their own 20, Costigan raced around the edge and stripped the ball out of Dillon Buechel’s hands and then recovered it at the Dukes 5. Easton then hit Thompson in the endzone on the first play to make it 17-7.
The lead quickly increased as Costigan intercepted Buechel’s pass on the second play of Duquesne’s next drive. With the ball at the 22, Easton looked for Thompson again the Florida native made an outstanding catch and hung on for his third score of the game to make it 24-7.
Duquesne began its comeback late in the first half with a 10-play, 78-yard drive. Hines opened the drive with two big runs and then Roberts made a 19-yard reception to put the ball in the redzone. He then capped the drive with a seven-yard TD reception with 1:58 left in the half.
In the third quarter, Duquesne forced a quick three-and-out and needed just six plays to score. Wayne Capers made a 50-yard reception on 3rd-and-7 before Hines pounded the ball in from a half-yard out to make it 24-21.
Later in the quarter, Anthony DiMatteo (Holbrook, N.Y.) sacked Buechel for a loss of nine yards to set up a 3rd-and-19 from near midfield. Buechel responded by throwing a 43-yard TD pass to Roberts to give Duquesne a 28-24 lead.
Bryant pushed back, scoring on its first drive of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs started at the Duquesne 44 and Femiano picked up 11 yards on the second play of the drive. Senior Taylor Barthelette (East Longmeadow, Mass.) then made a seven-yard reception on 3rd-and-2 to put the ball at the Duquesne 14. Three plays later, Easton found Thompson again for his record-breaking fourth touchdown of the game.
Duquesne, though, had an answer. The Dukes drove 80 yards in just four plays to take the lead for good. Hines opened the drive with a 54-yard run and PJ Fulmore picked up 28 on a 2nd-and-25 screen pass. Buechel then connected with Roberts for his fourth TD, a 13-yard strike.
The Dukes then effectively put the game away with a 12-play, 45-yard drive that took 7:05 off the clock. Duquesne started at its own 1 but converted on three third downs before finally punting the ball back to Bryant with 42 seconds remaining.
Bryant returns home next weekend to host Robert Morris on Senior Day. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. at Beirne Stadium.