PITTSBURGH - The last two meetings between the Central Connecticut State and Duquesne football teams each came down to the final minute to decide the winner and the Northeast Conference championship.
This time around, both were decided well before that.
The 18th-ranked Blue Devils had already locked up the NEC’s automatic FCS playoff spot the week before with an overtime win over Robert Morris and Saturday’s game against the Dukes was never close.
Aaron Winchester threw for two touchdowns, Danley Exilhomme ran for two more and the defense added to its nation-leading inception stat with two picks as CCSU rolled through Duquesne 43-10 in the regular season finale.
The win gives the Blue Devils their second outright NEC title in three seasons. Now, CCSU (11-1, 7-0) will wait and see where it is seeded in the upcoming playoff bracket, which will be announced Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU. The first round is set to take place on Nov. 30.
The Blue Devils started fast and jumped out to a 12-0 lead after Exilhomme’s 4-yard touchdown run and Winchester 23-yard pass to Theo Zidor in the first quarter.
It soon became a 19-3 following Enyce Walker’s 31-yard run less than five minutes into the second quarter and CCSU went into the locker room at the end of the first half up 19-10 after Brett Brumbaugh connected with Kellon Taylor for an 11-yard touchdown.
All three of the Blue Devils’ first-half scoring drives covered at least 58 yards. Overall, CCSU outgained the Dukes (6-5, 4-3) 414-264 in total yards despite running three fewer plays.
The Blue Devils tacked on 24 more points over the final 24 minutes of play.
Winchester found Tyshaun James for a 73-yard score six minutes after Joe Zoppi hit a 36-yard field goal at the 9:26 mark of the third quarter. Winchester finished the game with 188 yards and an interception on 9-of-20 passing. James ended his day with 118 total yards (80 receiving on two catches and 38 rushing on two carries).
DJ Exilhomme provided the defensive score for CCSUs when he intercepted Brumbaugh and returned the ball 87 yards to make it 35-10 with 26 second left to go in the third. It was DJ Exilhomme’s third touchdown of the year and the unit’s sixth of the season.
Linebacker Mike Mushaw recorded the other interception for the Blue Devils as the two became the 10th and 11th players to record at least one pick on the season.
Danley Exilhomme capped off CCSU’s scoring with a 25-yard run in the fourth quarter. Danley ended the game with 59 yards on the ground on 13 carries, while Walker finished with a team-high 67 yards on six touches.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org