Russell Macias | Staff Writer
Sept. 8, 2022
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In week zero against Florida State, Duquesne was simply overmatched. This week, in what appeared to be a more-winnable game, the Dukes fell 31-14 to Youngstown State at Stambaugh Stadium.
“Our kids played physically well enough to win the football game,” said Duquesne Head Coach Jerry Schmitt following the loss. “We just made mental mistakes, that’s on me. I told them that. We gotta get them prepared better, we’ve gotta make them make better decisions.”
On the game’s opening drive, Duquesne drove 75 yards down the field on just five plays. The drive was capped off with wide receiver Abdul Janneh breaking free on a straight run down the middle of the seam, where quarterback Joe Mischler found him for a 45-yard score. Under two minutes in, the Dukes possessed a 7-0 lead.
“We put ourselves in tough situations where we could’ve taken control of the game,” Schmitt said.
The opportunities presented themselves from the very beginning. Youngstown State muffed the ensuing kickoff, which Duquesne had a chance to recover inside the Penguins’ 10-yard line. Ultimately, the ball skittered out of the Penguins’ end zone, resulting in a Youngstown State touchback.
Then, on a 3rd-and-6 from their own 29, the Penguins converted a pass for 15 yards. On the same drive, Youngstown State’s Jaleel McLaughlin — a top-five FCS rusher in 2021 — secured a first down with an 8-yard catch on 4th-and-2. Three plays later, McLaughlin found his way into the end zone.
On the following kickoff, another setback occurred. Duquesne returner Keshawn Brown caught it on the goal line. Instead of instantly taking a touchback or bursting forward, he hesitated for a second and then ran, eventually being brought down at the 21-yard line, losing out on precious yards.
The drive eventually reached 4th-and-2 from the Youngstown State 43-yard line. Not backing down, the Dukes stayed on the field and snapped the ball fast. Three Dukes attempted to cross through the middle, and Mischler’s pass was easily intercepted.
After Mischler threw another interception that put the Penguins at Duquesne’s 31-yard line with just over eight minutes before halftime, Youngstown State needed just four plays and roughly over a minute to find the end zone. The score came courtesy of a 13-yard run from McLaughlin.
On the Dukes’ next drive, while trailing 14-7, a 36-yard field goal attempt from Duquesne kicker Brian Bruzdewicz hooked the kick to the left.
With the ball on their own 20-yard line and under two minutes to work with, a 43-yard run from McLaughlin on 3rd-and-5 helped the Penguins flip the field and kick a 39-yard field goal before halftime. The Penguins took a 17-7 lead into the locker room.
In addition to the mental miscues, Duquesne’s running game did the team no favors. The Dukes’ rushers averaged a mere 1.6 yards per carry in the first half.
Schmitt stressed that the team is young and inexperienced and has new players at many positions on the offensive side of the ball. Despite Mischler’s two interceptions, he still threw for 163 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
“They’re taking away our run,” Schmitt said after the game. “That’s okay. We’re gonna take the pass.”
The start of the second half showed promise. The Dukes’ defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense methodically cut through the Penguins’ defense on eight plays. Janneh went up for a jump ball and came down with it, securing a 16-yard touchdown — his second of the game and third of the season — to bring the score to 17-14 just under six minutes into the third quarter.
Youngstown State flew right back up the field, but met a wall of resistance in the red zone. On a 35-yard field-goal attempt, a bad snap was fumbled by the Penguins’ holder, and Duquesne came up with it.
Things quickly went downhill, and Duquesne completed just five passes in the remainder of the game. Despite Janneh and Dwayne Menders Jr. each recording upward of 100 receiving yards — becoming the first Dukes’ wideouts to do since 2019 — it wasn’t enough.
On the same drive that followed the fumble recovery, a bad play design on 4th-and-1 from the Penguins’ 27-yard line saw Duquesne fail to convert. This gave Youngstown State the ball back just before the end of the third quarter, with the Penguins still leading by a field goal.
After the Dukes’ defense forced another three-and-out, Duquesne lost six yards on a wide-receiver rush attempt on first down of its next possession. Two plays later, Mischler threw his third interception of the game, solidifying Youngstown State momentum that carried throughout the rest of the game.
The Penguins took over on Duquesne’s 41-yard line, and needed just six plays and under three minutes to find the end zone again. Demeatric Crenshaw scored a rushing touchdown from two yards out, giving Youngstown State a 24-14 edge with just under ten minutes left in the contest.
With a must-convert 3rd-and-2 on the Dukes’ next possession, a wide-open Rahmon Hart Jr. dropped a pass that would’ve kept the drive alive, with a chance to cut into the double-digit deficit.
“We’ve got to catch the ball if you’re a receiver, but we’ll work on it,” Schmitt declared postgame.
Late in the game, McLaughlin ran 54 yards for his third score of the game, effectively sealing what would be a 31-14 victory for the Penguins.
Schmitt said that he was proud of how his team played, but knew the potential for a win was on the table.
“Our men came up here to win this football game against a traditionally strong opponent from the toughest FCS conference [Missouri Valley Football Conference] in the country,” Schmitt said.
Duquesne will return for its home opener against Thomas More on Saturday afternoon at Rooney Field.