Jack Morgan | Staff Writer
This year doesn’t just feel different, but it needs to be different for the Duquesne Football squad.
After a disappointing 4-7 season for the Dukes in 2022, they will look to bounce back and compete for their 6th Northeast Conference championship this year. Last season’s losing record was the program’s first since 2012. Their 3-2 record at home was tainted by a 1-4 record on the road. Still, Head Coach Jerry Schmitt took some positives from that experience.
“Every year we learn, everything we do we learn off of it, so we learn from that.” Schmitt said. “We were in a bunch of close games, so I think we will benefit from understanding how close games like that can change on one play.”
Last season, the Dukes played in six games that were within one posession in the fourth quarter. They went 2-4 in those games.
His squad will be challenged often this year. They will open the season at home against Edinboro on Saturday. After that, Duquesne will face two FBS foes. On Sept. 9, they will head to Morgantown to face West Virginia. The Mountaineers have the 15th-most all-time wins among FBS teams, and their schedule has Duquesne sandwiched in between fellow Pennslvania opponents Pittsburgh and Penn State. The trip to Morgantown will be the Dukes’ third consecutive season facing a Power-5 opponent, building upon previous matchups with TCU and Florida State.
One week later they’ll travel to play Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers have grown into a mid-major powerhouse, owning a 31-7 record since the beginning of the 2020 season.
The Dukes will certainly have their hands full against those two, but Schmitt wants his team to stay focused on the team in front of them each week.
Schmitt is excited to play the Mountaineers and Chanticleers “after the Edinboro game, because the biggest game of the year is the next game. But we’re excited for every game, and it will be a great opportunity for our young men to play those programs.”
After that, the Dukes head eastward to New York to play LIU. Last year’s matchup was a thriller, when LIU edged out a 50-48 2OT victory on Rooney Field.
Then, it’s down the coast to Delaware, where the Blue Hens await them in an FCS battle. They are coming off of an FCS playoff appearance last year, where they beat Northeast Conference champions Saint Francis in round one, before losing to the eventual national champion South Dakota State.
Their final six opponents will be NEC teams, starting at home against Central Connecticut State, and a homecoming clash with defending conference champions Saint Francis.
Duquesne will then hit the road to play Sacred Heart and Wagner. Then they wrap up their home schedule against Stonehill, before closing out the regular season at Merrimack.
Duquesne will start the season with Preseason All-NEC 3rd Team member Darius Perrantes under center. Perrantes, a junior, took a backseat for the most part last year behind Joe Mischler. When he did get the chance to make some noise, he did. He threw for 539 yards and six touchdowns, on 37-71 passing.
Schmitt values the speed and mobility of his quarterback this year, and thinks it will work in his team’s favor, without forcing him to make big changes to the playbook.
“I don’t know if we need to have any [new] designs,” Schmitt said. “Because he likes to get out of the pocket anyway. We’re definitely going to take advantage of his mobility.”
Another big name on offense is Joey Isabella, who was named to the Preseason All-NEC 2nd team. He finished with 12 receptions for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns last year, despite missing four games due to injury. Both of those statistics are tops on the team for returning players.
On the defensive side of the ball, Duquesne will see four members of the preseason All-NEC 2nd team return to the field for the 2023 season. Kevin Kurzinger recorded a career-best 20 tackles and 3 sacks last year. Shane Stump also stood out with 54 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in 2022. Graduate student Tim Lowery had 22 tackles last year, 18 of which were solo. Ayden Garnes had 33 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions returned for 18 yards in total, 4 pass deflections and one fumble forced and recovered. He was also named 3rd team all conference as a kick returner.
With the talent on the roster, Schmitt comes in with clear expectations for this squad.
“Win every play, one play at a time, and I think we’re working towards that. And if we do that, we give ourselves the best chance.”