Football earns W over CCSU, now 2-0 in NEC

Dylan Fister | Staff Photographer | Taj Butts ran for three touchdowns in Duquesne’s victory on Saturday. The redshirt sophomore running back earned the NEC Offensive Player of the Week award for his performance.

Matthew Theodros | Staff Writer

The Duquesne football team dominated in all facets in their 44-20 victory over Central Connecticut State at Rooney Field on Saturday.

It was an offensive clinic by the Dukes, scoring big from the opening drive. Multiple weapons recorded career games torching the Blue Devils’ defense.

Despite rainy conditions and heavy downpours, Duquesne remained resilient and relentless with their attack on both ends.

Following their 43-17 loss to Delaware, the Dukes needed a bounce-back performance from their running attack after their lowest yardage since Week Two.

Running back Taj Butts made his mark, dominating in the first half after missing last week’s game due to injury. He finished the game with a career-high three touchdowns and 112 yards. His performance was recognized on Monday when he was named the Northeast Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

Head Coach Jerry Schmitt had high praise for Butts after his performance and his work ethic despite adversity in the weeks leading up to to his career performance.

“I’m really happy for Taj,” Schmitt said. “He works really hard. His mental part of the game, his preparation is awesome. He prepared his body over the last two weeks. He got treatment every single day so that he can play at this level today.”

Darius Perrantes found Butts in the endzone using a fake handoff play to open the scoring.

Tackles from Duquesne’s Jayden Johnson and Antonio Epps put pressure on CCSU’s quarterback tandem of Matt Jenner and Ricky Ortega. Early pressure and blitz attacks limited their offense to a lone field goal in the first quarter.

On their next offensive possession, the Dukes were able to repeat their early success. Perrantes launched a 50-yard dagger to receiver Tedy Afful. Butts broke through multiple CCSU tackles, carrying his man into the endzone for his second score of the day.

With a 14-3 lead, Duquesne kept its foot on the gas, leading by double digits from that point forward.

An offsides call on CCSU on fourth down gave Duquesne the ball back after a dismantled three-and-out. That game-changing penalty proved to be detrimental for Central Connecticut as the Dukes capitalized on their ill-advised error.

Perrantes found Afful for consecutive passes totaling 50 yards, and resulting in a touchdown score. CCSU’s single coverage proved to be impotent as Afful was able to do whatever he wanted in the first half. Afful caught five passes for a career-high 135 yards all in the first 30 minutes, which was his first 100-yard performance in his career. His ability to maneuver past defenders and catch the ball from difficult angles made him a nightmare to guard for the opponent.

Afful expressed gratitude to his team for propelling him to this position and allowing him to succeed in his role.

“Thank you to my o-line, thank you to my quarterback and thank you to my coach for calling the right plays,” Afful said. “I just went out there and executed, that’s it.”

Near the halfway point of the second quarter, the Dukes were able to retrieve a loose fumble after a CCSU defender knocked the ball out of Butts’ hand. Butts overcame the mistake on the ensuing possession using his evasive footwork to break the defense for a 58-yard touchdown.

Despite the impressive play, an interception by CCSU’s Harold Miles III on Perrantes, a 27-yard touchdown from Jenner to receiver Jadd Dolegala, and five penalties for 45 yards prevented what could have been an even larger blowout.

“I already got in my mind some of the things we are going to talk about with our guys,” Schmitt said. “They were controllable by us. Sometimes you’re making physical plays running and things happen.”

Entering the second half up 27-10, the Dukes continued firing on all cylinders. Perrantes found receiver DJ Powell in the endzone, bobbling the ball but keeping two hands on it for the touchdown.

The Duquesne defense neutralized the Blue Devils rushing attack that thrived the previous week against Delaware State, putting up a program-record 498 yards. Duquesne held them to 71 rushing yards, their first time under 100 all season.

With the game winding down, JaMario Clements joined the party sprinting past defenders with a 26-yard touchdown, the longest of his career.

Clements and Butts both reached the century mark on the ground which was the first time the Dukes achieved that feat since Nov. 21, 2021, against Wagner.

Perrantes finished the game with a season-high 265 yards. Afful spoke about the importance of having a trustworthy quarterback who everyone relies on.

“[Perrantes] is a great quarterback, a great teammate, and a leader,” Afful said. “He trusted the o-line, trusted the plays, and I’m just happy for him.”

Duquesne will return home on Saturday to take on Saint Francis as the Dukes celebrate Homecoming and Family Weekend at Rooney Field.