PITTSBURGH — After losing to Sacred Heart in Connecticut last week, the Dukes are looking to bounce back this Saturday at home when they take on in-state rival Saint Francis University.
The loss to Sacred Heart was Duquesne’s second of the season and it was their first conference loss. St. Francis comes into this weekend’s game with a record of 3-4 and are 1-2 in conference play.
The Dukes are 38-8 all-time against Saint Francis and are 9-0 against the Red Flash at Rooney Field. The rivalry dates back to 1913 and being that the two schools are in close proximity, there’s a lot of familiarity in regards to recruiting.
Duquesne led 13-7 at halftime against Sacred Heart last Saturday, but things went sideways for the Dukes in the second half, as they were outscored 24-0 by the Pioneers. The offense struggled to develop any rhythm in the second half and was hindered by penalties.
“Yeah, we didn’t execute real well on the offensive side of the ball, and we worked on that throughout the week,” Schmitt said. “We also worked on doing our job and worrying just about us and not what other people are doing to us, so we eliminate some of the penalties that we can control.”
Duquesne held Sacred Heart running back Malik Grant to just 16 yards rushing on 10 carries in the first two quarters, but Grant had a field day in the second half, finishing the game with 186 yards rushing on 34 carries and two touchdowns. Grant leads the nation in rushing with 1,039 yards.
“Well, they’re a really good football team,” Schmitt said about Sacred Heart. “Our defense played really well, (but) they started to wear down in the second half. And that was a product of us not moving the football. We’re very short on numbers with depth, so that stressed us out. Guys being on the field so long. And a talented running back like that just needs small creases. So, our guys were a little bit tired there, not only just physically but mentally. Not getting in the right gaps and filling the right spots, (Grant) took advantage of it.”
Sophomore linebacker and Steel Valley product, Todd Hill, echoed what Schmitt said about the defense not being able to stop Grant in the second half.
“It basically was just us making mental mistakes, it was nothing serious,” Hill said. “Just missing a few gaps, it’s nothing we can’t fix. We just got to keep moving forward and not really think about the past. He had a good game, that’s all I can say about it. We just got to get better from here.”
Hill is hoping that the Dukes can get back in the win column this week against St. Francis and avoid creating a trend of losing.
“They’re a real good team. They’re under the center a lot, do a lot of boot passes,” Hill said of St. Francis. “We just got to go in there and just be ready to battle. We cannot look past nobody. We just took a L, so this is the game that shows we’re back and we’re not going to just lay down after one loss.”
Dukes running back Garrett Owens rushed for a 75-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage against Sacred Heart and finished the game with 113 yards rushing. It was his second 100-yard performance of the season and his fifth overall in 10 career games with the Dukes as a graduate student.
“It was inside zone to the left side of the formation and they had a nose guard in over the center, so I just hit it patient, anticipated it, and just made the read. Bounced it to the field and just kind of reacted after that,” Owens said about his 75-yard touchdown.
Penalties in the second half against Sacred Heart put Duquesne in a lot of third-and-long situations and Owens believes that they have made the proper adjustments in practice, so they don’t find themselves in that position again.
“Honestly, just increasing our focus and preparation for the next game,” Owens said about correcting the penalties. “Putting that game behind us and just preparing every day for this upcoming week. Getting ready to play St. Francis and we’ve all had a good week of practice, doing all the little things and watching all the tape that we need to. Making all the adjustments we need to going into this week. I’m really excited to come out and have another home game and hopefully get a win.”
Schmitt said starting quarterback Darius Perrantes is questionable for Saturday’s game, as he’s dealing with a lower-body injury. Perrantes suffered the injury in the fourth quarter against Sacred Heart. If Perrantes can’t go, junior Evan Nelson will get the start at quarterback.
Kickoff for Saturday’s home game against St. Francis is at 3 p.m.