PITTSBURGH — Every team in college football is excited to get back to normal in the 2021 season, but maybe none more than the Duquesne Dukes.
The Dukes won an NEC Title and NCAA FCS Playoff appearance in 2018, and were rolling toward a repeat appearance in 2019 when an injury to quarterback Daniel Parr sent their season sideways.
The Dukes lost their final three games, including setbacks to eventual champs Central Connecticut and crosstown rivals Robert Morris.
Instead of getting a chance to rebound in 2020, the Dukes’ entire schedule was postponed, along with most of the rest of FCS football, to the spring of 2021. After an abbreviated four-game slate, the Dukes lost at home to Sacred Heart in overtime.
“This team is pretty hungry,” Schmitt said. “Going back two years ago, we had a pretty good team. Our quarterback got hurt and we didn’t play very well down the stretch. We thought we lost one there. We were very motivated for the
In 2021, Duquesne will get a full-season chance to re-claim the NEC crown, but that chase won’t start on Saturday when the season gets underway. Instead, the Dukes will start with a formidable test: a road trip to TCU on Saturday at 8 p.m.
The Dukes played two FBS teams in 2019, at Hawaii and UMass. Before that, it requires going back to Duquesne’s pre-1950 history of playing in the sport’s highest level to find an opponent as formidable as the Horned Frogs, who went 6-4 in 2020.
Leading the way for Duquesne in Fort Worth on Saturday night will not be Parr, who graduated after the 2019 season, but instead Ohio transfer Joe Mischler, who started five games for the Dukes this spring and is poised to lead the team back to its postseason goals in 2021.
“I think a lot of it is just how you approach it as a team,” Mischler said. “People can say whatever they want, but if you don’t believe in yourself and you don’t believe in your teammate, then the game doesn’t really matter at all.”
Getting Mischler five games under center was a big benefit for the Dukes this spring, as the team made its transition at the quarterback position and now enters the season with seasoned passer and leader in Mischler.
“His competitiveness stands out,” Schmitt. “He’s a talented kid, a highly intelligent quarterback, and continues to learn what he has to in our schemes. It was a bonus for us to see him in the new system and in the new schemes.”
But it also means that Duquesne will be playing for the sixth time in six months on Saturday, and by the end of the season, they’ll have played at least 15 gams this calendar year — more if they reach their postseason goal.
“We were concerned, when you play that close and come to camp so soon, but I think they have done a great job resting their bodies to prepare,” Schmitt said. “As a group, they’ve all embraced playing in the spring and then preparing for the fall.”
After the TCU game Duquesne will play another FBS opponent, at Mischler’s old Ohio squad on Sept. 11. The first time they’ll take the turf at Rooney Field will be Sept. 25 against Virginia-Lynchburg. NEC play starts on the road Oct. 2 at Merrimack and at home against Bryant on Oct. 9.