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Duquesne Football

Duquesne Football Defeats Thomas More, 34-14

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Pittsburgh — After losses to Florida State and Youngstown State to begin the year, the Dukes got in the win column and defeated NAIA Thomas More, 34-14, on Saturday afternoon at Arthur J. Rooney Field.

“It’s great to always get the first win,” head coach Jerry Schmitt said after the game. “It’s great to get it here at Rooney in front of our home fans. And it’s great to do it on a day that we recognize Dan McCann, our former coach, who meant so much to this program. His daughter and her husband were here, and it was just a good win all the way around for Dukes and Dukes fans.”

Duquesne dominated throughout the game and out-gained Thomas More, 503-173. The Dukes would have won by a greater margin if they capitalized on two red zone opportunities and didn’t give up two late touchdowns. Running back Billy Lucas and wide receiver Dwayne Menders were the standout performers for Duquesne, as both went over 100 yards. Lucas rushed for 139 yards on 19 carries (7.2 average) and two touchdowns, while Menders caught eight passes on 10 targets for 165 yards (20.6) and a touchdown, which went for 67 yards.

Running back Demarcus Ware also had a solid game, rushing for 90 yards on 14 carries (5.5 average). Dukes’ quarterback Joe Mischler completed 18 of 24 passes for 238 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“Really, our O-line was just getting downfield and blocking,” Lucas said on rushing over 100 yards. “The (O-line) weren’t just standing on the D-linemen, they were climbing. So, when those holes were coming out, I was just trying to stay north-south. That’s the quickest way to get downfield, so that’s where I was trying to hit at.”

Duquesne had a promising opening drive, but it stalled in the red zone, and Brian Bruzdewicz missed a 22-yard field goal. Menders got the Dukes in Thomas More territory after a 47-yard catch-and-run off a screen pass on the first play from scrimmage. Jalen Cooper had a chance to put points on the board, but failed to haul in a pass in the end zone.

The Dukes forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. Dukes’ quarterback Mischler got Duquesne in the red zone once again, but he got picked off by linebacker Del Thomas on a pass intended for Rahmon Hart in traffic. A few plays earlier, Billy Lucas rushed for a 2-yard touchdown, but it got negated due to a holding penalty.

The Dukes continued to dominant on defense, as they forced a three-and-out and then got two sacks and forced another punt on the following possession. Duquesne’s offense finally broke through, as Menders caught a short pass and went the distance for a 67-yard touchdown to put the Dukes up 7-0 with 5:54 remaining in the first half.

On the Dukes following drive, Mischler scrambled to the left and found Abdul Janneh down the field for a big gain to set the Dukes up at Thomas More’s 32-yard line. Lucas capped the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run up the middle to increase Duquesne’s lead to 14-0. Dukes’ safety Jon Muehlbauer picked off Blaine Espinosa’s ill-advised pass, which led to a 37-yard field goal by Bruzdewicz to give Duquesne a 17-0 halftime lead.

The Dukes’ defense was stout in the first half, as they allowed just 39 yards of offense. In contrast, Duquesne’s offense racked up 313 yards. Lucas rushed for 81 yards on 12 carries (6.5 average) and a touchdown, while Menders was the Dukes’ leading receiver with eight receptions on nine targets for 161 yards (20.1 average) and a touchdown.

Thomas More went three-and-out on its first two drives of the second half. Dukes’ linebacker Todd Hill recorded 1.5 sacks on the second possession.

Lucas went over 100 yards rushing on the day after a 36-yard run to the outside. Ware then broke off a 14-yard run to set the Dukes up inside the 5-yard line. Mischler finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Rafeal McCoy to give Duquesne a commanding 24-0 lead with 1:48 left in the third quarter.

Thomas More finally got the scoreboard, as Rae’Von Vaden completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Craig Willis in the back right corner of the end zone to cut the Dukes’ lead to 24-7. Thomas More rotated Espinosa and Vaden at quarterback throughout the game.

On Thomas More’s next possession, Espinosa got picked off by Sam Neil and Duquesne took over from Thomas More’s 12-yard line. The Dukes couldn’t capitalize off the turnover, however, and Bruzdewicz made a 37-yard field goal to give Duquesne a 27-7 lead with over eight minutes remaining in the game.

Jaden Hall plunged in for a 2-yard touchdown to give Thomas More its second score of the game, but a late comeback didn’t come to fruition and Duquesne secured the win with a 2-yard Lucas touchdown run. Ware set the score up with a 43-yard run up the middle.

The Dukes will face another FBS school next Saturday, as they’ll take on Hawaii at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex. Kickoff is at 12 a.m. (6 p.m. Hawaii time) and can be streamed on Spectrum Sports.

“We take it like no other team,” Menders said about playing Hawaii. “Like our coach said yesterday in our meeting, we have a faceless opponent. Every game that we go in, it’s faceless. We had a very good camp this year to get us ready for those type of games, and I think we’ll be ready.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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