Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
On Aug. 25, the Duquesne football team traveled about 500 miles northeast of the Bluff to Amherst, Massachusetts, where it faced the Massachusetts Minutemen. The game, a 63-15 DU loss, was Duquesne’s second-ever contest against a FBS opponent, with the first coming in 2014 at Buffalo. The Minutemen, led offensively by the talented quarterback tandem of Andrew Ford and Ross Comis, racked up 572 yards of total offense and 24 first downs on the night, despite only 26:40 of possession time.
Meanwhile, Dukes transfer junior quarterback, Daniel Parr, struggled in his first-ever game with his new team, completing 16 of 29 throws for 123 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Fast forward four weeks, and the Dukes are 3-1 following three consecutive non-league wins at Rooney Field. Parr leads Head Coach Jerry Schmitt’s team with 765 passing yards since the Dukes’ game at UMass, and has displayed impressive chemistry with senior standout wide receiver Nehari Crawford, whose Sept. 15 effort against Dayton (11 receptions for 223 yards, two touchdowns) earned him NEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Up next for the Dukes is FBS opponent Hawaii — located just 4,656 miles west of Duquesne — on Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. HST.
So, while Schmitt said that he’s obviously encouraged by the strides his offense has made over the past several weeks, he doesn’t want to go into the game versus the Rainbow Warriors overconfident, either.
“For me,” Schmitt said, regarding his confidence level, “I’m still trying to drive them to play better every play, more consistently, across the board.
“I’ve seen an improvement in that, but I’m not going to be satisfied until I get 60 full minutes.”
The team’s confidence level at the current junction, though? That’s another story.
“Their confidence, I believe, is much better,” Schmitt grinned. “Obviously, winning helps … I also think they’re buying in a little more. When you do those kind of things, like the last two weeks, you can win close games at the end.”
While a confident Parr, Crawford & Co. look to play to the highest of their collective capabilities on offense against Hawaii, the Duquesne defense is tasked with a different directive: ‘contain and rally to the ball’ against a high-octane Hawaii attack.
At least, that’s been the mantra for the unit thus far this week.
“Offenses like that, you’re not going to stop entirely,” Schmitt said. “Hope they make a few mistakes, force a few mistakes, and contain and rally to the ball.”
Indeed, Hawaii does average a whopping 41.5 points per game through four contests, and in the Rainbow Warriors’ first lost of the season on Sept. 15 against Army, the team still managed to post 362 yards of total offense — an impressive amount for a season low. Plus, through four weeks, Hawaii junior quarterback Cole McDonald paces the country in passing yards (1,486) and passing touchdowns (15), while redshirt freshman wide receiver John Ursua leads the nation in receiving yards (546), receiving touchdowns (7) and total touchdowns (8).
So, while the Dukes may not be able to completely halt Hawaii’s attack on Saturday evening, at least they can focus on containing opposing playmakers and rallying around the ball carrier. If Duquesne’s defensive corps can manage to do so effectively, keeping Hawaii off the field, it may give its offense some room to work, in return.
They’re certainly self-confident enough.
Dukes have big plans for Hawaii stay:
In order to adjust to the six-hour time difference between Eastern Standard Time and Hawaii Standard Time, the team left for Honolulu early on Wednesday, Sept. 19, a full four days before its game kicks off on Saturday. Coach Schmitt emphasized the importance of arriving for such a game with an adequate amount of time to prepare.
“We get there, and our clock will be off. So, we’re going to go right to the stadium and practice, and then come back, grab a pizza, and then probably go to bed, to try to get acclimated on their time,” Schmitt said Tuesday.
The next day, Schmitt said that the team would do a walk-through near the hotel, then go on an island tour in the afternoon and finally have team meetings on Thursday night.
On Friday, the team will have a full practice at the stadium before touring Pearl Harbor, which Schmitt said is only minutes away from Aloha Stadium. Following dinner Friday night, the team will have its normal Friday night meetings, and then have a routine Saturday in preparation for a 6 p.m. local kickoff time.
Game is Duquesne’s second versus a FBS opponent within one month:
“It’s a great opportunity for our kids,” Schmitt said Tuesday, speaking on what the Hawaii game represents for his program. “To experience a trip like this, to play in a game like this, and to go to a place that they may not have an opportunity to go to again, … It’s a great opportunity for our fans, our alums, parents, families, everybody associated with Duquesne football, to go travel and watch.
“And it’s a great opportunity to play an FBS program and continue the development of our program, and try to stretch our program as high as we can.”