Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt knows what it takes to knock off the Dayton Flyers. The two out-of-conference rivals have met in each of the past eight years, with Schmitt and the Dukes taking home six of the last eight, three of the previous four and each of the last two meetings between the teams.
So, coming off two straight wins in the 2018 season, what does Schmitt think his team needs to do to make it three straight on the season and against Dayton? Play disciplined football.
“They’re so well coached,” Schmitt stated when talking about Dayton. “They’re going to play solid throughout the game, take advantage of your mistakes when you make them, and they do such a good job of that. Coach Chamberlin has been there for years. Great program. Great pride in their program. So, it’s always a battle with those guys. Turnovers and mistakes. He and I usually go after the game ‘Who made the last mistake?’ That’s the team that doesn’t win the game.”
Jerry Schmitt has tremendous respect for Dayton head coach Rick Chamberlin, who has been with the Flyers for 11 seasons now, holding a record of 80-34. The record can speak to Chamberlin’s teams being able to capitalize on mistakes. They have won 11 straight games when they win the turnover battle.
Chamberlin has helped Dayton achieve one of the four best winning percentages in FCS history since the 2000 season. Coming off of a deflating loss to Southeast Missouri last week, one would have to assume that Dayton will not only bring a disciplined bunch but a motivated core ready to force Duquesne into those turnovers.
The Flyers will be a telling matchup for the Dukes, as they are coming off of a win that came in comeback fashion due to turnovers in their own zone. The Dukes were stuffed on fourth down and threw an interception in the red zone to give away points in their back and forth win against Valparaiso. However, Schmitt also noted that it was not just the offense making these mental mistakes.
“We made some critical mistakes against a really good football team,” admitted Schmitt. “They do a great job on offense and really stress you out defensively. We made some mistakes in the red zone twice and walked away without any points. We didn’t tackle very well and that caused some tougher situations for us.”
While Schmitt was sure to praise Valparaiso, and rightfully so, he also admits that it was their own doing as well that made that game so close. Valparaiso comes from the Pioneer Conference, the same conference as Dayton. However, Dayton is typically the powerhouse of that conference, and Valparaiso usually sees themselves looking up at the Flyers. This should equal a much tougher task for the Dukes this week. Schmitt understands that, but also thinks that his team should present a better product on the field, as they are just getting into the swing of the season as well.
“I would think that they’re still learning how to play their best every single play. The main part of that is the mental part about it. You make mistakes sometimes, but there’s some that we could control. We’re working on being that way throughout 60 minutes.”
If Schmitt and the Dukes can limit the mistakes, they could be taking their third straight victory on the road, to take on Hawaii next week, a team that is easily their most prominent on the schedule.
Take advantage on special teams
Dayton sticks to their values all the way down the core: well coached, take advantage of mistakes, and of course, great special teams. While Dayton features seven All-Conference performers, two of them are special teams stars. Dayton brings an All-Conference long snapper Matt Tunnacliffe, who just so happens to be third on their team in receiving as well. They also carry a unanimous All-Conference selection at punter, and Dayton’s all-time leader in punt average in senior Sean Smith.
It doesn’t end there.The Flyers placekicker, Allen Waltz, has the record for most field goals in a game in school history, and their kick blocking unit has blocked 23 kicks in four seasons. This team does the little things well. While it may not show up in the highlight reel, this is why they win so many games.
Last week, Duquesne got into a battle in the trenches with Valparaiso that saw A.J. Hines tote the football 31 times. We could be in for the same style of football again on Saturday. Both teams feature superstar talents at running back, and two of the best active players at the position.
When the two enter Saturday’s game, A.J. Hines will have 2,600 yards, ranking fourth amongst active FCS performers. However, he will be playing catch up on Saturday, as he looks up to Dayton’s Tucker Yinger, who ranks third currently with 2,671 yards. Dayton brings in All-Conference tackle Ben Gauthier. Duquesne has two All-Conference linemen in their own right with Alex Conley and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Both teams bring similar offensive strengths to the table and are going to pound the ball between the tackle. Whoever wins in the trenches should have a great chance in the game.
While the Dukes have some talent in the passing game, the tone for Dayton should be to continue to run the ball as they bring in a redshirt freshman quarterback, Jack Cook. Cook was set to be the backup, and take over next season for redshirt Senior Alex Jeske. Unfortunately for Jeske, a knee injury early into his season debut ended his college career early and threw Cook into the fire.
Cook responded well in the moment and led his team to a win against Robert Morris in relief duty. However, his first career start was not as strong. On the road, he completed just 52 percent of his passes, at 6.1 yards per attempt for one touchdown and one interception in the loss. To put that into perspective, first-year starter Daniel Parr is completing 62 percent of his passes at 8 yards per attempt for the Dukes.
So far this season, Duquesne has been one of the more prominent pass defenses, allowing just 200 yards per game, at 7.23 yards per attempt. Senior cornerback Daquan Worley has had an excellent start to his season, and it has been matched by junior Reid-Harrison Ducros and their All-Conference performer in the nickel, senior Jonathant Isatache.
With senior Brandon Stanback at strong safety and a blooming sophomore Spencer DeMedal to round out the secondary, Duquesne brings in a talented, and experienced group. While Cook saw life on the road in his first career start, it still should be a tough situation for the young and inexperienced quarterback.