Jerry Schmitt has been a part of the Duquesne football program for a very long time. He began as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator in the 1980s and ’90s and, after a five-year stint coaching Westminster, he became the Duke’s head coach in 2005, where he’s served ever since.
In all those years he has seen the Dukes have great success. However, through three coach of the year awards, eight conference championships and two trips to the FCS playoffs, Schmitt never thought he would see the day when Duquesne would defeat an FBS opponent.
“No, I couldn’t imagine even playing one,” Schmitt admitted.
That changed on Saturday when the Dukes traveled to Athens, Ohio and defeated the Ohio Bobcats 28-26 for the program’s first victory over and FBS teams.
“To have this opportunity to come and the kids played their butts off in this game today is an outstanding feeling,” Schmitt said after the game. “I never imagined this is where we’d be.”
After getting pounded 45-3 in their season-opener against TCU last week, the Dukes went into Athens missing starting quarterback Joe Mischler, who ironically transferred from Ohio to Duquesne two seasons ago. In his place was sophomore Darius Perrantes, a Rhode Island transfer making his first career start.
To make matters worse, Ohio returned the game’s opening kickoff 83 yards to the endzone and took an early 6-0 lead. Despite all that, however, Perrantes led the Duquesne offense to a near-perfect outing. The Dukes held advantages in total yards (362-307), plays (79-46), first downs (26-15) and doubled up the Bobcats in time of possession, 41:02-18:58.
When the Dukes took an 18-13 lead in the third quarter, their only objective was to possess the ball for as long as possible.
“As soon as we got up, we just started pounding the ball,” Perrantes said. “In the trenches, they couldn’t really stop us so we kept running, pounding the ball, waiting until there were five seconds left on the play clock.”
In the second half, the Duke’s three meaningful drives combined for 47 plays, 209 yards and took up about 19 and a half minutes. Most importantly, the Dukes scored 17 points on those three drives.
For comparison, the Bobcats just barely possessed the ball for more than 10 minutes after halftime.
“We were trying to reduce the number of series that they could have to keep the game close,” Schmitt said. “Obviously, once we got up we were trying to reduce the number of possessions they could get.”
Mercyhurst transfer Garrett Owens was a workhorse for the Dukes, carrying the ball 23 times for 82 yards. Combined with Parrentes, who completed 23-of-34 passes for 194 yards, and 12 Ohio penalties, Duquesne’s offense was able to easily stay ahead of the sticks and easily maintain their drives.
Perrantes accounted for both of Duquesne’s touchdowns, punching one in on the ground from a yard out and throwing another to Joey Isabella from three yards away.
“He played really well, well enough to win the game,” Schmitt said. “He came out and the kids embraced him right away. In Tuesday’s practice, they embraced him as the leader of our offense and he took it and did a really good job. He had to learn a bunch real fast, and he did. I just like how he keeps his head in the game.”
Sophomore placekicker Brian Bruzdewicz kicked four field goals from 23, 38, 21 and 27 yards and the Duke’s defense even recorded a safety to end the first quarter.
“Coming into this game I knew we could win,” Perrantes said. “We just had to believe in ourselves, believe in our coaching and do everything we’ve been doing all week. I knew we could get it done.”
Duquesne will play their final non-conference game, next week when they welcome Virginia University of Lynchburg to town for their 2021 home-opener in two weeks. Following that, it is right into Northeast Conference play with a matchup at Merrimack on Oct. 2.
“(This win is) definitely going to give us some momentum, but we’ve got to come into every game like we’re going to win,” Perrantes said.