Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
Sept. 1, 2018
For the first time since a 37-21 win over Sacred Heart on Oct. 28, the Duquesne football team left the field victorious on Saturday afternoon, trouncing Division II opponent Lock Haven 45-0 at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field. The Dukes moved to 1-1 following the win.
The victory gives Duquesne its eleventh consecutive win in home-opening games, last losing a home opener on Sept. 1, 2007, versus Bucknell. The win also renders Duquesne 22-3 all-time in home openers played at Rooney Field.
The Dukes recorded 460 yards of total offense in the blowout, with 245 coming via the air. Junior quarterback Daniel Parr completed 10 of his 15 pass attempts for 197 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard strike to junior wide receiver Dominic Thieman in the second quarter.
Star senior wideout Nehari Crawford led all players in receiving yards, reeling in five catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns against the Bald Eagles. Crawford also returned a Lock Haven punt for 44 yards for a touchdown.
“It was just fun,” Crawford said of his team’s offensive performance. “We came out swinging; first drive, we started clicking, and we just took off from there.”
Crawford was complimentary of his quarterback’s play, too, saying he thought Parr looked much more comfortable behind center in his second chance leading the offense.
“He had to get one [game] out of the way,” he said. “He got the jitters out, and now he’s ready to go, so hopefully the rest of the season looks like it did today.”
Head Coach Jerry Schmitt echoed Crawford’s sentiments toward Parr, saying that he’s liked what he’s seen from his transfer quarterback lately.
“I keep seeing some really positive things; he’s making some really good plays,” Schmitt said. “He’s still learning the offense, still making a couple mistakes — you know, little things that he’s got to fine-tune, but other than that, I’m really impressed with his improvement.”
Junior tailback A.J. Hines led all rushers with 77 yards on the ground to go along with one touchdown on seven carries. Hines was sidelined momentarily toward the latter part of the first half due to what appeared to be a sore right ankle, but later returned to action.
Freshman Lucas D’Orazio rushed for 57 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries for the Dukes. Fellow freshmen Ky’ren Cunningham and KJ Cartwright contributed, as well: Cunningham amassed 35 yards on 12 carries, while Cartwright ran for 33 yards on 11 tries.
D’Orazio, who’s listed on Duquesne’s official roster as a linebacker, said that the coaches suggested making the positional switch earlier this week, thanks to a scarcity of healthy bodies at the running back position. The freshman from Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio, played running back in high school, and gleefully obliged when presented with the opportunity to return to his old position with his new team.
“Earlier in the week, I got a text from Coach Schmitt, who pulled me into his office and asked me if I wanted to take some offensive reps this week,” D’Orazio said after the game. “I said, ‘Of course.’ I played both ways in high school, so it’s not anything too new to me, and the mantra of this team a lot of times is ‘Dukes adjust,’ so I adjusted as quickly as I could.”
D’Orazio admitted that being able to line back up on offense was pretty bizarre, and particularly, the opportunity to score a touchdown, like he did late in the second quarter to widen Duquesne’s gap on the scoreboard to 28.
“It’s a little surreal, you know? I mean, I’m standing over there on the sidelines at UMass, just trying to get in on any special teams [plays] that I can, … and then this week, I’m standing there next to the coach, and he says, ‘Hey, get in there,’” the freshman said. “We had some really good blocking up front, opened up some holes and I had a good amount of yards and a nice touchdown, so good milestone.”
Schmitt expounded on the decision to move D’Orazio to running back after the game, explaining that several backs have been injured recently and there was a need for healthy bodies at the position.
“We knew we were a little bit thin, … but we also knew how talented he was because of his high school films and the things he did in high school, so we figured it’d be an easy transition,” Schmitt said. “But to get rewarded with a touchdown like that, that’s awesome.”
Schmitt said that injured running backs P.J. Fulmore and Ricky Mellick are still a few weeks away from returning, with Mellick out for “probably a couple more weeks” and Fulmore out “a week or two, also, so there’s question marks there.”
Overall, Schmitt said he was pleased with what he saw in his team’s home opener.
“I thought we really executed well, and played situation football really well. It’s good to see yourself get better from Week 1 to Week 2, … and I thought we made a good jump,” Schmitt said.
The head coach, in his 14th season leading the Dukes, went on to speak highly of his defensive unit, as well.
“We played our assignments better on a more consistent basis today. We blew some coverages last week, which allowed [UMass] to make some big plays,” Schmitt said. “By being in the right places, we were able to make [Lock Haven] work for everything they could get, and ultimately, then, get some interceptions off of that.”
Indeed, Duquesne did intercept two Lock Haven passes, courtesy of senior cornerbacks Jonathant Istache and Daquan Worley. Istache nearly intercepted another pass, too, but bobbled the ball before fully securing it.
In all, the Dukes held the Bald Eagles to 195 yards of total offense, forced four takeaways, and only allowed Lock Haven to convert once on third down despite 13 overall attempts.
Juniors Brett Zanotto and Chris Favoroso led Duquesne with seven tackles apiece, including one tackle-for-loss each. Istache also recorded five tackles.
So, while Duquesne won in dominant fashion against Lock Haven to begin their home slate, there are surely still things the team will be looking to improve upon ahead of its next game, Sept. 8 versus Valparaiso.
One of those things will likely be discipline. The Dukes committed eight penalties against the Bald Eagles, totaling 71 yards lost due to various infractions. Crawford singled discipline out as something his team will have to improve upon before taking to the Rooney Field turf again next Saturday.
Asked to briefly describe how he thought the offense functioned, Crawford chuckled, “despite all the penalties and stuff, … we did pretty good.”
This post was updated on Sept. 6, 2018, at 3:20 p.m.