PITTSBURGH — In Sunday’s home against Sacred Heart, Duquesne proved that even after 15 months off, they are good enough on both sides of the ball to get the job done. To start off the 2020-21 season, that will stand in place of last fall’s postponed schedule, the defense faced one of the best players in the NEC, and the new-look offense was fielding a lineup of many players making their Duquesne debuts. However, the Dukes capitalized on Sacred Heart mistakes and got the 30-27 win.
Coming into their first game in 470 days, Duquesne knew they would have their hands full with Sacred Heart running back Julius Chestnut. The former NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year tortured the Dukes’ defense in both of his career matchups with Duquesne.
In 2018, which was his freshman year, Chestnut ran for 131 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown, against Duquesne on just 10 attempts. Then, in 2019, the Bowie, Md. native had 20 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown from 61 yards out.
Things were business as usual on Sunday as Chestnut ran for 168 yards and scored all four of the Pioneers’ touchdowns, two each rushing and receiving, including a 58-yard touchdown run.
Duquesne’s Jerry Schmitt said during the week that the way to slow down Chestnut was to stack the box, control the gaps, and keep him from getting outside. The Duquesne defense hardly slowed him down, but they did slow down just about every other facet of Sacred Heart’s offense.
Senior safety Spencer DeMedal made a diving interception, and the offense scored a touchdown off the turnover. The defense also forced two turnovers on downs and the special teams unit blocked two extra points.
Duquesne also had four tackles for loss, two sacks, and held Sacred Heart to just 2 of 9 on third down conversions. It might not have been a pretty showing, but the Dukes’ defense gave the offense more than enough opportunities to control the game, which it did.
— Duquesne Football (@DuqFB) March 7, 2021
Sophomore quarterback Joe Mischler, a 2019 transfer from Ohio, made his Duquesne debut Sunday. He threw two touchdowns and ran for another. Also making his debut was graduate transfer running back Garrett Owens, from Mercyhurst, had 172 scrimmage yards and caught a touchdown. Senior wide receiver Cyrus Holder, a transfer from Saint Francis, caught a touchdown on the opening drive in his first game on the bluff. Freshman running back Billy Lucas rushed for 30 yards on just four carries in his first career game. The majority of Duquesne’s offensive line had never started at offensive line before. They didn’t allow a sack and the Dukes ran for 203 yards as a team.
This offense was loaded with branded new faces, but they played like they had been a team for a long time. Mischler said that they knew their potential and just wanted to go showcase it for the first time.
“It was very impressive the way they played together,” Schmitt said. “I give a lot of credit to the (offensive) coordinator Anthony Doria, the run game coordinator Matt Stansfield. But I think a lot runs through the guy running the show on that field … It’s only been one game but I’ve been with him now for a year ‘cause he was here last spring. I’m gonna tell ya, a lot runs through that kid. And I’m not just talking about his performance or his arm or his legs, I just think he’s a great leader.”
Duquesne will continue its season next Sunday at noon in Staten Island against the Wagner Seahawks.