Matthew Theodros | Staff Writer
The Duquesne University football team survived a thrilling nailbiter in their 38-35 win over Saint Francis on Saturday at Rooney Field.
Duquesne celebrated its yearly Homecoming and Family Weekend festivities in front of a crowd of 3,052, the highest count since the 2007 season opener.
The game was in the Dukes’ hands for the majority of the contest. A 22-point 4th quarter from Saint Francis made this a competitive battle that came down to a field goal.
Self-inflicted errors were the story of the game for Duquesne. Turnovers and sloppy play made it a game that should have been out of reach in the first half.
“It was a lack of execution that caused those,” Head Coach Jerry Schmitt said. “We weren’t mentally sharp. When you do that you give them an opportunity to get some momentum and get back in the game.”
This was a necessary win for Duquesne as their last matchup against this team resulted in a 51-14 loss, the biggest in the history of the program.
For the third time this season, Duquesne scored on the game’s first drive. Darius Perrantes led a 9-play, 62-yard drive which ended in a fake handoff, 17-yard touchdown to receiver Keshawn Brown.
Perrantes has shown throughout the past few weeks how his control of the game and stability results in victory.
“His timing is getting better and better, he is doing a much better job taking those risking shots that could lead to interceptions,” Schmitt said. “He is continuing to progress, and we are happy to see that.”
Duquesne’s Dayvia Gbor picked off a pass from the Red Flash’s Cole Doyle on the following possession, his second interception of the season.
The Dukes controlled the second quarter, scoring 21 points in the final three minutes and limiting Saint Francis to 10 points entering halftime.
On fourth and 4, Perrantes broke tackles to find his receiver DJ Powell. On the ensuing play, he found his target once again in the endzone for his second of three passing touchdowns for the day.
DU continued their offensive assault as Perrantes launched a deep ball to receiver Joey Isabella on a streak route for 69 yards. Isabella was left alone in the middle as the defensive coverage focused their efforts on Powell. Isabella posted career numbers recording 116 yards.
“I’ve been connected with Joey for a long time,” Perrantes said. “I transferred in when he came in so we have been working a lot together. His speed is unmatched for sure. They gave him multiple chances, and he came up with it.”
In the final seconds of the half, Saint Francis botched a punt attempt. Defensive back Tim Lowery scooped the loose ball and sprinted for the 15-yard touchdown.
“The A-gap was open, they weren’t really worrying too much about that,” Lowery said. “[The ball] ended up hitting his face mask and I saw the ball on the ground, saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.”
Saint Francis continued making ill-advised errors. To open the half, redshirt freshman Scott Raymond fielded the ball but fumbled it following a tackle by Lowery.
His heroic defensive efforts were rewarded with the NEC Special Teams Player of the Week. The Dukes were not able to capitalize off the turnover and the great field position. Perrantes attempted to find Brown in the endzone but was picked off by Red Flash linebacker Mercury Swaim.
Saint Francis’s Jordan Jackson ran the ball for the score, their first offensive touchdown of the day. At the end of the third quarter, the Dukes led 31-14.
Duquesne continued its efficient offensive attack to begin the fourth quarter. Perrantes connected with Isabella once again for a gain of 41. Running back Taj Butts pushed toward the end zone for the touchdown score, his fourth of the season.
From this point forward, Saint Francis rallied the troops and began their comeback. Offensive lineman Mason Imbt pushed through the 1-yard line for the first score reducing the deficit to 17.
The Red Flash defense halted Duquesne’s offense on back-to-back possessions and capitalized on their own. A blocked punt attempt by Trey McLeer resulted in a return for a 40-yard touchdown. SF trailed 38-28 with four minutes remaining.
Saint Francis received the ball with under a minute remaining. Doyle found wide receiver Jayden Ivory for a three-yard touchdown.
In a nightmare situation for the Dukes, the Red Flash recovered an onside kick with the chance to tie or win the game with a minute remaining.
With 19 seconds remaining, Saint Francis lined up for a game-tying field goal. Mac Plummer missed the kick left, allowing Duquesne to escape narrowly.
This was a crucial win for the Dukes. The 3-0 conference start for Duquesne is the best since the 2020-21 spring season.
“We had to play every second of the game,” Schmitt said. “It was two different types of halves. But in the end, we got that [win], which is hard to get in the conference. You’re playing the reigning champion, a really good program and I’m just so happy for the players and the coaches.”
The Dukes head back to the road next Saturday as they travel to Connecticut for a matchup against Sacred Heart.