PITTSBURGH — When Duquesne went to Valparaiso last season, the game played similarly to a Big 12 matchup, with the Dukes surviving a back and forth shootout.
Saturday, when the Dukes hosted the Crusaders at Arthur J. Rooney stadium for their rematch, the game played more similarly to a Big 10 game, with a between the tackles emphasis on both sides in a 23-21 Duquesne victory.
Head coach Jerry Schmitt said pregame that his team needed to run the football more consistently. He also knew his run defense would be put to the test against an offensive line with loads of experience.
The Dukes held up to the test. On offense, they pounded the ball 45 times, including 31 carries for 137 yards from A.J. Hines. The Dukes averaged four yards per carry overall, an uptick from their season average 3.8. On defense, a Dukes team that gave up 5.5 yards per carry on the season held up, and gave up just 3.7 yards per carry on 30 attempts to Valparaiso.
A.J. Hines was fed the ball early and often in this game and started off the scoring with a short touchdown to a take a 7-0 lead. Hines pounded the football 16 times for 64 yards in the first half and put up both Duquesne touchdowns.
The emphasis on running the football in the first half helped in opening things up for the Dukes in the second half. The Dukes used quick passing in the second half to set up big plays to Nehari Crawford, Kellon Taylor and Kareem Coles Jr. to flip field position.
Still, the threat of a pass was just enough for Duquesne to get back to basics, and ground and pound a game winning drive. Down 21-17 with about 7 minutes to go, Daniel Parr kept it himself three times, and A.J. Hines ripped off six rushes for 44 yards and the go ahead touchdown, his third of the game.
Valparaiso used a big play and some confusion to put up two of their three scores. Their second scoring drive of the game was led off by backup quarterback Ryan Markoff, who rushed the football three times for 21 yards. Markoff is a mobile quarterback who presents a stylistic difference from starter Chris Duncan. When Markoff checked in, the defense was thrown off. When Duncan checked back in during the same drive, they were completely confused. Duncan completed two quick passes and Valparaiso punched in a touchdown to tie the game.
Later, down 17-14, Griffin Norberg burst a bubble screen into the open field and tiptoed down the sideline for a 58-yard touchdown to give the Crusaders their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter.
Aside from the trick drive and miraculous run after the catch, the Crusaders were held in check.
While he was held to just two receptions in the first half, star receiver Nehari Crawford still made an impact in this game. It was a 23 yard catch in the first half that led to the first touchdown. Crawford finished with six receptions for 85 yards with a big second half that featured two key catches on the game winning drive.
The win puts Duquesne at 2-1, while Valparaiso lost their season opener to move to 0-1. Next week Duquesne hosts Dayton, while Valparaiso heads to Youngstown State.