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It's rare that a #1 vs. #2 matchup in anything lives up to the billing, but that it did today in Dayton Saturday, when the top two teams in NCAA I-AA Mid-Major football squared off. Duquesne's Jeremy Conley had a record-setting day and scored the game-winning touchdown with nine seconds left as the #2 Dukes edged the #1 Dayton Flyers 35-28.

Conley caught nine passes for a Duquesne-record 245 yards to spark the Duquesne offense. Eight of his catches went for first downs, and his game-winning 10-yard score was his shortest reception of the day. The Dukes outgained Dayton 436 to 205, and the difference in total yardage was just about what Conley gained on the day.

The Dukes got out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on TD runs by Mike Hilliard. Tony Hurps answered for the Flyers with a six-yard TD run at the start of the second quarter. Duquesne QB Niel Loebig hit Michel Warfield for a touchdown pass with 47 seconds remaining in the half for a 21-7 lead at the break.

The Flyers forced three second-half turnovers to erase a 21-7 halftime deficit and tie the game at 28-28 with 2:34 to go.

The Flyers had back-to-back drives resulting in field goals to cut the lead to 21-13, and then Aaron Furman's hit on Loebig knocked the ball loose. He scooped up the fumble and took it 14 yards to the end zone. QB Kelly Spiker ran it in on the option for a two- point conversion and a 21-21 tie.

The two teams exchanged punts, and then Duquesne went 53 yards on just three plays to regain the lead. Loebig found Loran Cooley from 26 yards for the go-ahead score, and then the Flyers were held to a three-and-out. But Dayton safety Mark Kasmer came up with his sixth interception of the year near midfield, and UD answered on third and nine with a 22-yard TD pass from Kelly Spiker to FB Sean Borchers to tie the game 28-28 with 2:34 left.

But the Dukes had the difference-maker in Conley. Duquesne drove 80 yards in seven plays to win the game, with three receptions and 51 yards of it ending up in Conley's hands.

Duquesne quarterback Niel Loebig was 22 of 37 passing for 411 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Dukes' halfback Mike Hilliard was the game's leading ground gainer with 76 yards on 28 carries. Tony Hurps was UD's top offensive performer with 41 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.

Defensively, Dayton linebacker Brian Heizman was the game's top tackler, with seven. Kasmer also deflected a pass at the line on a blitz to go with his interception. Freshman middle linebacker Harry Carter led Duquesne with 6.5 tackles.

It was the kind of game between powerhouse teams that you'd hope would decide something big, like a championship. At the end of the season, when we look back on this game, maybe it did.
Dayton will remain at home next week, facing Butler in a 1:00 p.m. game that is the Pioneer Football league opener for both teams. Duquesne is home against Lafayette.
Hopefully we will bounce back in a big way against Butler.
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