Dukes holding slim hopes for Northeast Conference crown
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The annual backyard grudge match between Duquesne and Robert Morris will be played at 3:30 p.m. today at Joe Walton Stadium, but, unlike in past years, there isn't much on the line for either team other than pride and city bragging rights.
The Dukes (5-3, 3-2 Northeast Conference) still have an outside of winning the NEC title, but they need a lot to break in their favor. They are in third place and trail first-place Albany by two games with only three to play.
Robert Morris (2-6, 1-4) is fighting to stay out of the bottom of the conference and could take some satisfaction in ending the Dukes' fleeting hopes of winning the NEC crown.
The Dukes clinched their share of the NEC title last year with a 45-10 win against the Colonials and have dominated the series in recent years, winning seven of the past 10 matchups.
And if they are to make it eight of 11, they will follow the lead of record-setting senior tailback Larry McCoy, the school's all-time leading rusher.
McCoy, who has a school-record 24 career 100-yard rushing games, is third on the NEC's all-time rushing list with 4,308 career yards and he needs only 153 to move into second.
McCoy and a prolific running game is not good news for the Colonials, whose rush defense is among the worst in the conference.
Teams have rushed for 164.8 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry against the Colonials, who have surrendered 13 rushing touchdowns in eight games.
California at Mercyhurst, noon, Tullio Field -- This is the biggest game in the PSAC this weekend because it will have a direct effect on the West Division championship.
With a win, the Vulcans (7-2, 5-1 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West) will lock up the division title and clinch a spot in the PSAC championship game against East Division champion Shippensburg (9-0, 6-0).
The Lakers (7-2, 5-1) could win the division with a victory and a Gannon (2-7, 1-5) upset of IUP (8-1, 5-1).
IUP owns the tiebreaker over Mercyhurst, so if the Crimson Hawks and Lakers both win, the Crimson Hawks will win the West.
If the Vulcans are going to win this one, they will have to contain Mercyhurst's powerful rushing attack, which averages 215.2 yards per game.
IUP at Gannon, noon, University Field -- The Crimson Hawks lost control of the conference race by falling to California, but they still are playing for a berth and seeding in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
IUP's formula for success -- a strong defense and a dominant running game -- is for the most part weatherproof, so a sloppy field is not likely to be a big factor against the Golden Knights.
Gannon will could counter with a strong running game of its own as Jansen Jones is coming off a 183-yard rushing day in a win against Lock Haven.
But the Crimson Hawks feature the top-ranked defense in the PSAC and give up just 64.8 yards rushing and 8.7 points per game.
Lock Haven at Slippery Rock, 1 p.m., Mihalik-Thompson Stadium -- Slippery Rock (5-4, 4-2 PSAC West) is coming off a big win against California, is playing its best football of the year and should have another big day against struggling Lock Haven (0-9, 0-6).
Lock Haven has allowed 425.1 yards and 33.8 yards per game; the Rockets have scored 33.7 points per game and average 178 yards rushing per game.
The key player for the Rock is quarterback Nigel Barksdale, who has thrown for 1,237 yards and has accounted for 16 touchdowns.
Washington & Jefferson at Geneva, 7 p.m., Reeves Field -- The Presidents (6-2, 5-1 Presidents' Athletic Conference) need a win to keep their PAC title hopes alive.
A victory would improve the Presidents to 6-1 in the PAC and set up a first-place showdown with rival Waynesburg (9-0, 7-0) next Saturday on the final day of the regular season.
If history is any indicator, the Presidents should be in great shape against the Golden Tornadoes. The Presidents have a 38-19-1 edge in the series, they have won the past seven meetings and have won each of their past three trips to Geneva.
The Presidents also are coming off an open date, and they have won each time in the past five seasons coming off an off week.
First Published November 3, 2012 12:14 am