Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
Duquesne’s football team did its part to make the university’s 2017 Homecoming weekend memorable, beating NEC rival Wagner 38-0 on Oct. 7.
The win was the program’s first shutout win since a Nov. 22, 2014, victory against Robert Morris.
Among the game’s Homecoming festivities was an appearance from University President Ken Gormley, a commemoration of Duquesne’s 1977 club football team, the Homecoming court at halftime and a performance from the Dukettes, Duquesne’s dancing team.
“It’s a good win, because when people come back, you want to put on a show,”
Duquesne junior cornerback Jonathant Istache said following Saturday’s win. “For the people who graduated, and for the people who set the foundation for what we play for now, it’s a good win.”
Istache led a sound Duquesne (4-1, 1-0) defense, finishing the game with an interception, a forced fumble, two broken-up passes and seven solo tackles. The Dukes held Wagner (2-4, 0-2) to 237 total offensive yards, including only 84 passing yards.
Sophomore transfer linebacker Brett Zanotto, Duquesne’s leading tackler so far this season, registered eight tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss against Wagner, and senior linebacker Carter Henderson contributed seven tackles in the Dukes’ triumph.
Zanotto was named the NEC’s Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Likewise, the offense was hitting on all cylinders, as the Dukes’ passing game thrived in the returns of top tailbacks A.J. Hines and P.J. Fulmore, both from injury. Hines ran for 77 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown in his first game action since Sept. 16.
“It felt great, man. It felt great to be back out here with my brothers and get a great win,” Hines said.
The only person more excited for Hines’ return other than himself may have been quarterback Tommy Stuart.
“Yeah, that was great, having both of those guys back,” Stuart said after the game. “That really opened up the passing game for us.”
Stuart, who entered the game ranked fourth in the country in completion percentage at 70.8 percent, connected on 14-of-23 attempts for 238 yards and four touchdowns after only completing one-of-six attempts for nine total yards in the first quarter.
Two of those scores were connections with Duquesne’s leading receiver Nehari Crawford, who finished the day with six receptions and a career-best 156 yards in his third multi-touchdown game of the year. Named the NEC’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts, Crawford pulled in a season-long 79-yard pass from Stuart in the third quarter to put the game out-of-reach for the Seahawks.
“Touchdown,” Crawford said of his mindset after he beat a Wagner defender down the sideline and caught the pass from Stuart.
“Just making the play. Once I [saw] the ball in the air, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s a touchdown,’ and all I had to do was catch it,” he laughed.
Crawford, who has scored in all five of Duquesne’s games this season, leads the NEC with eight receiving touchdowns this season. Crawford’s eight receiving scores are tied for second in the country at the FCS level.
“It feels great, but you know, it’s more about the team,” Crawford said of his recent success. “We came out and shut them out today, so that’s wonderful.
“I think we lost Homecoming last year, so we had to top it this year and get a nice win. A shutout win is always great, and the whole team played well.”
The Dukes fell to Kennesaw State in last year’s Homecoming game on Sept. 24, 2016, 36-28.
Duquesne hopes to maintain its positive momentum as it heads into a rivalry game on Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. versus Robert Morris (2-3, 0-0) in Moon Township. The Dukes will have to improvise versus Robert Morris following cornerback Brandon Stanback’s fourth quarter targeting penalty against Wagner. Since Stanback was penalized in the second half of the Dukes’ game, he is ineligible for the first half of the team’s next game.
While the Colonials’ offense has had its struggles so far this season, matchups between the two schools always seem to be
Led by junior quarterback Jimmy Walker, the Colonials average 7.8 points per game, having only scored four offensive touchdowns all season long. To its credit, Robert Morris has faced several quality opponents this year, including No. 6 Youngstown State, No. 2 North Dakota State and East Tennessee State, all away from home.
“It’s just another game. You know, we just have to come out and do our job, and hopefully we’ll get the same results as today,” Crawford said on Saturday of the Robert Morris matchup.
Duquesne has won four straight games versus the Colonials, last losing on Nov. 3, 2012, at Robert Morris, 17-13.
The Dukes, picked to finish first in the NEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll this season, have won nine of their last 10 conference games.
Robert Morris was picked to finish last.