Zachary Grace | Staff Writer
On Sept. 30, Duquesne’s football team won their home opener vs. DII West Virginia Wesleyan, 38-13.
The win was the program’s 100th win at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field, where the team has played its home contests since the 1993 season.
Without top running backs A.J. Hines and P.J. Fulmore, the Dukes struggled early on offensively, but with about six minutes to play in the second quarter, quarterback Tommy Stuart got Duquesne on the board, finding wide receiver Nehari Crawford for a four-yard touchdown pass.
With 1:32 left in the second quarter, Stuart hit wide receiver Kareem Coles for a nine-yard touchdown pass, stretching the Duquesne lead to 14-0. The drive was set up by a West Virginia Wesleyan fumble, which was recovered by linebacker Nathan Stone at the Duquesne 37-yard line.
Stone finished the night with eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, one pass deflected and a recovered fumble for Duquesne.
On the ensuing West Virginia Wesleyan possession, Bobcats wide receiver Tra Jackson fumbled on his own 31-yard line, providing Duquesne with ideal field position. Stuart hit Coles for another touchdown with :37 remaining in the first half, padding the Dukes’ lead to 21.
Having preserved all three of its first half timeouts, Duquesne forced the Bobcats to punt on their next drive, resulting in a quickly completed pass to Dukes receiver Chavas Rawlins, who made it out-of-bounds following an 11-yard gain, stopping the clock.
Duquesne’s quality time management skills setup redshirt freshman kicker Jacob Gill for a 41-yard field goal attempt, who connected on his first career try to give the Dukes a 24-0 lead heading into halftime.
Following the halftime break, with 2:15 left to play in the third quarter, Stuart found Crawford from 29 yards away, pushing the Dukes’ lead to 31-0.
Several Duquesne backup players entered the game for Duquesne as the game became out-of-reach for the opposition.
The second-team offense looked smooth in its time on the field for coach Jerry Schmitt, as quarterback Brett Brumbaugh found wide receiver Thomas Lucas downfield for a 32-yard completion on one play in the fourth quarter.
Running back Ricky Mellick capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run. The score was Mellick’s first career talley.
As the game’s final minutes dwindled down, West Virginia Wesleyan capitalized on several Duquesne penalties to move the ball, and ended up scoring its first touchdown of the game, which came on a 22-yard pass for the Bobcats. The Dukes’ special teams unit punctuated the tone of the night’s game, blocking the ensuing extra point attempt.
West Virginia Wesleyan scored again following a Duquesne turnover to make the count 38-13 in the game’s closing moments.
Quarterback Tommy Stuart finished 24-29 for 226 yards and four touchdowns, and Nehari Crawford led all wideouts with 70 receiving yards and two scores. Freshman back DeWayne Murray III led Duquesne with 83 yards rushing on 14 carries in his collegiate debut.
Stone led the defense with eight tackles, followed by safety Abner Roberts and linebacker Carter Henderson, who accounted for seven tackles apiece. Defensive end Andy Struttmann added five tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Duquesne will begin conference play on Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. Wagner at 1 p.m. on Rooney Field as a part of the university’s Homecoming festivities.
Wagner is 2-3 (0-1 NEC) on the season, with a 31-6 conference loss at NEC rival St. Francis on Sept. 9. In their last outing, the Seahawks won a home contest against Lehigh, 37-20.
Following the Dukes’ victory on Saturday evening, Duquesne senior linebacker Carter Henderson said, “It was good to come back home, finally, [and] get a big win here. There was a big crowd [on Saturday night],” Henderson said of returning home to Rooney Field.
“This week, we’re looking to start fast and stay on top of them all game,” Henderson said, acknowledging that Duquesne can’t get off to such a slow start against a stronger and faster opponent, like the one that it will face in Northeast Conference foe Wagner this weekend.
Duquesne beat Wagner, 28-20, at Wagner on Nov. 5 last year.