By Joseph Sykes | Sports Editor
A sloppy, muddy field was the stage for the Duquesne football team’s 16-7 win over Robert Morris on the road last Saturday. Despite pulling out a win in the harsh conditions, that wasn’t the highlight of the night. The real highlight was sophomore running back Rafiq Douglas’ monster performance at Joe Walton Stadium.
With nothing but a slippery field ahead of him, Douglas totaled four personal bests with 32 carries, 172 rushing yards, four receptions and 31 receiving yards, all of which were season highs for the entire Duquesne backfield. Though Douglas was unable to find the endzone, his performance earned him the Northeast Conference Player of the Week Award and exhibited the team’s significant strides in its rushing department.
Last season, the Dukes’ running backs never rushed for over 75 yards in a game. Fast forward to this year, and there has been seven times the Dukes have rushed for over 80 in a single matchup. There have also been four separate times when a rusher has broken the 100-yard mark.
The team’s success on the ground can be attributed to three players: Douglas, senior Klartel Claridy and freshman P.J. Fulmore. So far this season, Douglas has tallied 539 total yards, Fulmore, 365 and Claridy, 364. Claridy has two of the Dukes’ four 100-plus yard rushing games after knotting 105 in the home opener against Kentucky Christian and 123 in Week 5 against Central Connecticut.
Having an explosive rushing game allows for holes in the defensive secondary to form, in turn helping junior quarterback Dillon Buechel and the passing game. This was seen in Week 5 against Central Connecticut when Buechel threw for a career high 323 yards. CCSU was having a hard time covering both Duquesne’s receivers and Claridy, who broke the 120-yard mark. It was just too much for the Blue Devils to handle.
Even though Claridy graduates after this year, it’s good to know that Fulmore and Douglas will continue to play together on the Bluff for at least two more seasons. But for right now, the entire team needs to focus on the present. The Dukes still have three games left on the schedule, and if they want to win out, the Red & Blue must see to it that Douglas, Claridy and Fulmore continue to get touches and frustrate opposing defenses.
The Dukes look to carry over this success into Week 9 when they return home to face Wagner University at 12 p.m. on Rooney Field.
As it stands, the Dukes currently hold an overall record of 5-3 and a 2-1 record in the NEC after falling to Bryant two weeks ago.