Drew White | Staff Writer
The Duquesne Dukes officially announced their 2018 football schedule this past week, and after a few tweaks were made to it on March 9, the final dates and locations have been set in stone for the upcoming season. All game times currently remain unannounced.
Duquesne’s slate will be possibly its most challenging schedule in the history of the program, as it is set to travel to play two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools as part of its non-conference schedule.
The Dukes will make their first-ever trip to Amherst, Massachusetts, on Aug. 25 when they open up their season against the Massachusetts Minutemen. Competing as an Independent at the FBS level, Massachusetts is Duquesne’s first FBS opponent since Aug. 30, 2014, when the Dukes traveled to play the University of Buffalo in the program’s first-ever game versus an FBS opponent. Buffalo won 38-28.
Duquesne’s Aug. 25 game versus the Minutemen will officially occur during “Week 0” of the NCAA football schedule, as this contest will be the earliest into a season the Dukes have ever played a game. Massachusetts finished 4-8 last season.
The Dukes will then return home for a three-game homestand following its trip to Amherst, beginning with a Sept. 1 date with Division II Lock Haven. It will be the first matchup ever between the two schools. Last season, Lock Haven finished 2-9 overall and 2-5 in its conference, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
Following the Dukes’ matchup with the Bald Eagles, the Red & Blue will host Valparaiso on Sept. 8 at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field. Last season, the two teams met in an early non-conference thriller at Valparaiso which the Dukes left victorious from, with a 45-40 win to show for.
Another Pioneer Football League team will come to play the Dukes when Dayton visits Pittsburgh on Sept. 15. The two non-conference rivals will meet for an 11th-straight season in 2018. Duquesne has taken the last two games in the series, including a thrilling 28-23 road victory last season at Welcome Stadium in Dayton on Sept. 16.
Coach Jerry Schmitt’s team will then travel to the Aloha State on Sept. 22 to take on the FBS’s Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, who finished the 2017 season 3-9 overall and 1-7 in Mountain West Conference play. The trip is the Dukes’ first trip west of the Rocky Mountains since 1947, when they played San Francisco.
It will be the first of two trips to Hawaii for the Dukes, as the programs have another game scheduled for the 2022 season.
The trip to Hawaii will mark the last of the non-conference schedule for Duquesne.
Following a bye week, the Dukes will then open up their NEC portion of the schedule when they play host to the Bryant Bulldogs on Oct. 6. Bryant defeated Duquesne in last season’s finale, 38-29, when both teams had already been eliminated from postseason contention.
Duquesne will remain on home turf the following week as well, when crosstown NEC rival Robert Morris makes a trip to the Bluff. The Dukes handled the Colonials handily last season, winning 51-14 on Oct. 14 in Moon Township. Duquesne will look for its sixth-straight win against Robert Morris in the next installment of the series, set for Oct. 13.
On Oct. 20, Duquesne will travel to Loretto, Pennsylvania, to face perennial NEC contender St. Francis. Although the Dukes lead the all-time series 15-3, the two teams have split their past four meetings evenly at two apiece.
After another bye week during the week of Oct. 27, the Dukes will travel to Staten Island, New York, to play the Wagner Seahawks. One of the favorites to win the NEC last season, Wagner disappointed with a 4-7 overall record last year, which included a 38-0 trouncing by Duquesne on Oct. 7.
Duquesne returns home for one last home game against Sacred Heart on Nov. 3. The Dukes have won seven out of the 10 matchups between the two, including the last three after winning 37-21 on the road last season on Oct. 28.
Schmitt’s team then travels to Central Connecticut State for its season finale, looking to avenge last season’s heartbreaking 28-27 Duquesne loss on Nov. 11.
In the second-to-last game of the season last year, with the NEC title and a trip to the FCS playoffs on the line, the Dukes lost in gut-wrenching fashion, missing a last-second 18-yard field goal try.
In all, the Dukes are set to play three first-time opponents in 2018 in Massachusetts, Lock Haven and Hawaii. The Dukes went 6-2 against teams on their upcoming schedule last year, losing to Central Connecticut State and Bryant, respectively.
Duquesne will presumably enter the season as a favorite to win the NEC, returning many of its starters from last season.