Luke Henne | Sports Editor
Oct. 28, 2021
The Duquesne football team was unable to avenge last season’s Northeast Conference title game defeat at the hands of Sacred Heart, as the Dukes fell to the Pioneers, 31-13, on Saturday.
The loss, which was Duquesne’s first since the season’s opening week, forced the Dukes to surrender control of their own destiny.
With each team having one conference loss — and the Pioneers holding the head-to-head tiebreaker — Duquesne would need at least one more loss from Sacred Heart to move ahead in the standings.
The 18-point defeat saw Duquesne take a 13-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. However, the Pioneers capitalized on their chances, scoring 24 unanswered points en route to a second consecutive victory over the Dukes.
During his weekly “Coaches Show” program, Head Coach Jerry Schmitt said that the team’s offensive attack did not do enough to keep up throughout the course of the game.
“We were not able to execute enough on offense to move the football and to keep them off the field,” Schmitt said. “Obviously, if you’re not moving the football, you’re not putting it in the red zone and threatening to score.”
Duquesne’s offense converted on just two of its 11 third-down attempts. The Pioneers also outgained the Dukes in first downs by a 28-7 mark, while maintaining possession for nearly two-thirds of the game (38:03 to 21:57).
Schmitt was proud of his defense’s effort but knew it could only withstand so many tests.
“When you get to that point where the offense is going three-and-out a number of times, you give them [Sacred Heart] the opportunity to move the football, and our defense wore down,” Schmitt said. “That’s not an excuse, but we’re stressed with injuries and depth. Guys were playing their hearts out and doing a really good job until that fourth quarter.”
Sacred Heart’s potent offensive production was highlighted by running back Malik Grant, who rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries in the victory.
Duquesne seemed to swing the momentum early, as running back Garrett Owens broke away and rushed for a 75-yard touchdown on the team’s second play from scrimmage.
“They’re gonna eat the inside gaps, and it was an inside running play,” Schmitt said. “He made a nice play, bouncing to the outside, made the safety miss. He made a nice move, and then his speed took over. Cyrus Holder did a great job screening and blocking down the field.”
Sacred Heart tied the game with an eight-play drive that lasted just under four minutes and ended with a 12-yard rushing touchdown from Rob McCoy.
Field goals on consecutive drives at the end of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter from Duquesne kicker Andrew Smith gave Duquesne the lead for the time being.
Darius Perrantes, who emerged as the team’s starting quarterback following Joe Mischler’s injury during the season’s opening week, left Saturday’s game with a knee injury of his own.
“He [Perrantes] got banged up a little bit there. We’re hoping that he’ll be back,” Schmitt said. “We haven’t got the report yet. He’s doing some rehab here early in the week.”
Before the injury, Perrantes struggled, only managing to complete seven of 16 pass attempts for 45 yards and an interception.
“His play was not as efficient and effective as it had been the past couple weeks. We’re gonna have to keep working on that,” Schmitt said. “He’s young in our system. He’s had some really good football games. He’s a talented young man, but when you play a talented defense like that, a veteran defense … you have to execute and do it with detail and make good decisions.”
Schmitt was displeased with his team’s lack of composure throughout the game. Duquesne gave Sacred Heart 126 yards via 14 penalties, while the Pioneers committed just two penalties for a modest 15 yards.
“We certainly have to be more disciplined. That’s not how we play. That’s not how we have played,” Schmitt said. “We have to handle those things better, but it was a challenge because when you’re getting in a tough game like that, and the calls are all going to your side, then it’s tough to keep your poise.
“The way you beat that and the way you beat the calls you believe are not going your way is to get on the scoreboard and win the football game.”
Following the loss to Sacred Heart, Duquesne will now look ahead to Saturday’s home matchup with Saint Francis (Pa.). Like the Dukes, the Red Flash are 2-1 in NEC play, making the game that much more meaningful.
Duquesne has won three consecutive overall meetings against SFU. The Dukes have not dropped a home game against the Red Flash since Nov. 7, 1992.