By Jashvina Shah for Pittsburgh Sports Now
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Last season, Duquesne came within five minutes of claiming another Northeast Conference championship. But Central Connecticut scored two touchdowns in the last five minutes to escape with a 28-27 win and eventually clinch the championship.
Consistency, not only in games but also in the season, is the team’s focus heading in the fall of 2018.
“Not only finishing games but finishing the season,” offensive lineman Matt Fitzpatrick said. “The last couple of years we’ve played really well in the begining and just kind of fell off. Especially last year with the way our season ended. It was tough obviously but we just didn’t play our best football. It came down to more than just one play. With the whole game I think we didn’t play our best football. The most important is to play your best football at the end of the year. That’s something we should work on.”
Last year, two of the team’s four losses were by three points or less and he Dukes finished the season on a three-game losing streak.
“That’s always the challenge,” head coach Jerry Schmitt said. “For us I recognized last year we played a little bit on emotion and momentum and so we tried to get more businesslike. We started that through the offseason too, that there’s going to be ups and downs in games and seasons and if we can keep our heads up and just keep playing as good as we can play, things will work out for us.”
League coaches tabbed the Dukes to finish second this season, just one slot behind the Blue Devils. Duquesne, which fielded the NEC’s most potent offense last year, received one first-place vote. Duquesne’s big matchup against Central Connecticut will come on November 17, the last game of the season. First, the Dukes will battle some tough non-conference opponents, including Massachusetts and Hawaii.
“They’re determined,” Schmitt said. “Not that we didn’t have that before but I think there’s an extra gear right now with Duquesne football where we want to be and who we want to be and how we want to play.”
Duquesne averaged a league-high 32.2 points per game. Wide receiver Nehari Crawford led all receivers with 15.8 yards per catch, while A.J. Hines averaged 5.7 yards per carry. Quarterback Tommy Stuart played in 11 games and tossed the ball for 2,405 yards.
With Stuart’s departure, the quarterback position will fall to a battle between transfer Daniel Parr and junior Brett Brumbaugh. Crawford and Hines, along with Fitzpatrick, Jonathant Istache and Alex Conley were named to the All-NEC Preseason Team.
“[Offensive lineman] Gabe Spurlock’s a young guy that has subbed in for us the last couple years and he’s under the radar and very talented he’s going to get an opportunity to start and play and be a leader for us, so I’m looking for him,” Schmitt said. “Kareem Coles is a wide receiver that suffered an injury last season and did not live up to his potential because he was hobbled majority of the season. Looking forward to seeing his performance this year when he’s healthy.”