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Duquesne University
Football: Duquesne boots Lafayette, 23-22

Bellisario's 24-yard FG sparks Dukes to win in closing seconds

Sunday, October 06, 2002

By Phil Axelrod, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

On a day when Duquesne kept kicking itself in the teeth, a kicker rescued the Dukes.

Earl Bellisario's 24-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining lifted Duquesne to a 23-22 victory against Lafayette before a homecoming crowd of 4,905 at Rooney Field yesterday.

Bellisario completed a frantic 71-yard drive in the final 53 seconds as Niel Loebig completed passes of 25 and 22 yards to Michel Warfield and 16 yards to Yardon Brantley. Loebig, a sophomore from South Fayette, set school records with 54 attempts and 29 completions. They were good for 349 yards and two touchdowns against a blitzing Lafayette defense.

"They went into a prevent that last drive," Loebig said. "Our receivers know how to get open."

Jeremy Conley, a senior from Allderdice, had a school-record 13 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown. "His routes are starting to get to perfection," said Loebig, who left the game briefly with a shoulder injury in the second quarter. "I don't see anybody stopping him."

Duquesne, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major, is 5-0 after the non-league win. Their final six games will be against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opponents. The Dukes are heavily favored to win their fourth consecutive league title and play in the ECAC Bowl against the champion of the Northeast Conference.

"It's nice to set personal records, but the best record we've got is 5-0," Loebig said.

It was Duquesne's second win this season against a team from the more prestigious and powerful Patriot League. The Dukes opened with a 35-14 victory against Bucknell.

"We're pulling the big ones out," said Loebig, who threw a touchdown pass to Conley in the final seconds last week to defeat then-No. 1 Dayton. "We know now we're capable of coming back to win a big game."

The Dukes managed to defeat Lafayette (2-3) despite having two punts blocked, one for a touchdown, botching a field-goal attempt and three interceptions. They played most of the game without star cornerback Leigh Bodden, whose right hamstring was pulled.

The Leopards led 7-0 lead in the first quarter on Archie Fisher's 26-yard return of a blocked punt and made it 10-0 on Martin Brecht's 35-yard field goal midway through the second quarter after an interception deep in Duquesne territory.

Loebig's 22-yard pass to Conley, who made a shoestring catch, pulled the Dukes within 10-7 at halftime. They went ahead 14-10 on a 24-yard run by Mike Hilliard, who rushed for 85 yards on 19 carries.

Brecht's 26-yard field after the second blocked punt made it 14-13 after three quarters.

The fourth quarter got off to a wild start. Lafayette's Mario Glavic made a circus catch in the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown giving Lafayette a 19-14 advantage. A two-point conversion pass failed. With 429 left, Loebig threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Yardon Brantley on fourth down to make it 20-19, and the Dukes also failed to convert a two-pointer.

Just when the Dukes seemed to be in control, Lafayette's Joe McCourt caught a short pass, jumped out of the grasp of two defenders and rumbled 46 yards on third down to Duquesne's 20. Brecht, a graduate of Greensburg Central Catholic, booted a 20-yard field goal at 1:03 to push Lafayette in front, 22-20.

That set the stage for the last-minute drive and Bellisario's heroics.

After Lafayette called two timeouts, Bellisario kicked his first winning field goal.

"Pressure? That doesn't matter. I tried not to think about," he said. "Was I nervous? Not really. I knew I could make it."

Phil Axelrod can be reached at paxelrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1967.

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