The Duquesne Dukes head to Loretto, PA 0-2 for their first NEC road test as they take on St. Francis. However, while that record away from Pittsburgh may show a team struggling to get its act together, head coach Jerry Schmitt sees a team that is battle tested. While St. Francis is no walk in the park of a road trip of its own, they are not quite Hawaii or UMass.
“Everyone talks about it is tough to win on the road in the conference, I was telling the team this is a jog in the park compared to where we’ve been.” Schmitt bragged about his battle scars against two FBS foes. Hawaii is a 6-2 in the FBS, and even UMass is 2-5, with another win in the FBS aside from Duquesne. While these do not reflect well on Duquesne’s record, they do reflect on well on their ability to travel and stand up against tougher opponents. With St. Francis limping in at 2-4, Duquesne could show off their resolve.
However, Schmitt was aware that this is a tough environment to play in. His team has lost in their past two visits to St. Francis.
“It is a tough place to play for some reason,” Schmitt added about the home field advantage. “For some reason, with it up in the woods, and the facilities for the visiting team aren’t great.”
But, Schmitt does not see that as a reason to distract his team from completing their mission of walking away with a 5-3 record.
“The hoop is the same no matter what, you know?”
It would be a critical win that would put Duquesne right back on track in the NEC standings. The team came out of the bye week with a home loss in conference play but can show resolve in their ability to bounce back in a big spot against a familiar opponent.
On top of playing on the road, the Dukes are not coming in as the healthiest team. While it was a strong performance, the team needed cornerback Daquan Worley to take snaps at running back to spell A.J. Hines.
It led to success but did force others in the secondary to step up. The depth did, but there has already been a lot of shuffling with a few of their pieces banged up in recent weeks. Taking Worley to the offensive side of the ball for an extended period is a big dice roll.
“I am a little concerned about the injuries catching up with us,” Schmitt added.
A.J. Hines missed the Hawaii game and then had his worst game of the season against Bryant. However, Hines got the wheels rolling in a big way against Robert Morris, with 27 carries for 182 yards and three touchdowns.
Hines shook off the rust and now has to take it on the road against a St. Francis defense that has done their part on the ground. They have allowed only 100 yards per game rushing on the ground. Hines had six 100 yards performances last year but only has two this season. After posting 100 on his own last week, the team needs him to carry the load to suffice the depth in the secondary.
Whether Hines can carry the Dukes across the finish line will likely determine whether or not they walk away with their first conference road game of the year.
Nehari Crawford record watch
As the weeks start to go by, wide receiver Nehari Crawford is going to climb Duquesne record books consistently. Crawford is now third all-time in receptions in Duquesne history. He enters Saturday one reception away from tying Bruce Hocker for second all-time, which will undoubtedly be eclipsed. He enters the game 14 behind the all-time school record.
On top of that, he is one touchdown away from tying Michael Warfield for fourth all-time on the receiving touchdowns list. St. Francis is more susceptible to the pass than the run. Knowing Crawford, there is a decent chance we will see him climb the charts on this list as well.