DU football enters season with expectations

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Head Coach Jerry Schmitt is set to begin his 18th season leading the Duquesne football program.

Jack Morgan | Staff Writer

Aug. 25, 2022

It is finally that time of year. As one walks past Rooney Field, they’ll find the Duquesne football team preparing for the 2022 season, one that will be highlighted by a challenging schedule.

Last year’s team finished 7-3, missing out on the Northeast Conference title and subsequent automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs by one game. Instead, Sacred Heart — one of the two NEC teams to defeat Duquesne — earned that bid.

In the 2021 season opener, Duquesne lost starting quarterback Joe Mischler to a season-ending knee injury before he even completed a pass in a 42-3 loss at TCU.

His backup, Darius Perrantes, came in and provided stellar play to help the Dukes hardly miss a beat. In his first game as the starter, Perrantes led the team to a marquee win over Ohio, an FBS program out of the Mid-American Conference.

It was the first time either Duquesne or any NEC program had accomplished the feat of taking down an FBS program.

In what has become the norm, the Dukes enter the season with high expectations. The Dukes received three-first place votes, but were picked to finish second in the NEC preseason poll (trailing only Sacred Heart, which received five first-place votes).

The Dukes have finished in the top three of the conference in every season since 2015. Duquesne was awarded the conference’s automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs in both 2015 and 2018.

In what will be his 18th year as head coach of the program, Jerry Schmitt can take comfort in the fact that his team will return a few key players.

Last year, Perrantes appeared in nine games and threw for 1,620 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also went 7-1 in his eight starts and ranked third in the conference with an average of 180 passing yards/game. However, he could still be in competition with Mischler for playing time.

Mischler, a member of the 2020-21 All-NEC First-Team, and Perrantes are separated by an “or” on the team’s official depth chart, according to TribLive’s Tim Benz.

Another key player returning for the Dukes is running back Billy Lucas, a member of the All-NEC Preseason Team who averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2021 despite sharing carries with the now-graduated Garrett Owens. Other key losses include wide receivers Cyrus Holder and Davie Henderson, who helped power an offense that averaged 29.5 points/game in 2021.

The Dukes do retain wide receiver Joey Isabella, who is also a member of the All-NEC Preseason Team. Isabella reeled in 12 catches for 75 yards last year, while also getting looks as a kick and punt returner.

On the opposite side of the ball, defensive lineman Maxi Hradecny, linebacker Todd Hill and defensive back Jeremiah Josephs return this year were each named to the All-NEC Preseason Team.

The Dukes’ season will get underway on Saturday, when they square off with a historic program in Florida State, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. For the second consecutive year, the program will be opening on the road against not only an FBS program, but a Power 5 one at that.

The game will be nationally televised on the ACC Network, and will kickoff from Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., at 5 p.m.

The non-conference action continues on Sept. 3, when the Dukes travel to Youngstown State for a date with the Penguins. After the team’s Sept. 10 home opener at Rooney Field against Thomas More, another FBS opponent awaits the Dukes: the Mountain West Conference’s Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.

After a bye week, Duquesne will open NEC play on Oct. 1 at Stonehill, the conference’s newest member.

In all likelihood, the most-pivotal game will come on Nov. 5, when Sacred Heart comes to Rooney Field for a matchup between the conference’s preseason favorites.