Football looking strong heading into homecoming game

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Running back A.J. Hines became Duquesne’s second all-time leading rusher in last Saturday’s win over Sacred Heart.

Jacob Hebda | Staff Writer

Oct. 24, 2019

With just five games to go, it’s an apt time to conduct a midseason review of Duquesne football.

The Dukes are off to a hot start in conference play. With a 2-0 record, the NEC preseason favorites are exactly where we thought they’d be.

The Dukes’ defense is among the best in the FCS. The unit ranks 11th overall in total defense and 13th in scoring defense. The pass defense has been particularly outstanding. Seniors Reid Harrison-Ducros and Daivon Ellison lead a unit that has forced eight interceptions and allowed only 961 passing yards. Simply put, the secondary is making things miserable for opposing passers.

The NEC’s top passing offense, Sacred Heart, found that out the hard way this past weekend. Pioneers quarterback Logan Marchi had arguably his worst game of the year, throwing three interceptions and zero touchdowns.

Two of those picks were snagged by Harrison-Ducros, who earned NEC Player of the Week recognition for his performance.

While pass coverage is this defense’s strength, the Duquesne pass rush and rush defense have been solid as well. They’ve racked up 15 sacks and allowed 143 rushing yards per game. Thanks to these collective efforts, opponents average less than 20 points a game. In other words, even if the offense is having a bad day, this defense keeps their team in the game.

This has been important considering the offense may still be finding its rhythm.

The run game, which ranks 2nd in the NEC, has been effective and efficient. However, the Dukes’ pass attack is yet to find quite the same success.

Quarterback Daniel Parr has 957 yards through the air and eight touchdown passes, both decent figures. However, with five interceptions and a 57.45 completion percentage, there is certainly room for improvement.

Meanwhile, A.J. Hines and Mark Allen have combined for a terrific one-two punch on the ground.

Hines has only played in four games but rushed for over 100 yards in both conference matchups. Allen, on the other hand, has rushed for 438 yards and averaged 5.5 per game. Each player has three touchdowns.

If Parr and his receivers begin to click, this offense possesses explosive potential.

Overall, while there are undoubtedly kinks to work out, Duquesne seems primed and prepared for the second half of the season.

Following a trip to Bridgeport, Duquesne returns to Pittsburgh this week for a conference showdown against Wagner.

The visiting Seahawks have dropped two in a row and currently stand at 1-6. Their only win is over NEC cellar dweller LIU. That record may suggest that the Dukes will have it easy come Saturday, but that’s unlikely.

Despite their abysmal record, the Seahawks have kept games close, losing only two games by more than ten points. That’s largely thanks to its defense, which ranks 34th in the FCS. The unit is led by senior linebacker and NFL prospect Cam Gill.

Gill leads the NEC in tackles for loss (12) and 2nd in sacks (5.5). He’ll undoubtedly be on the radar of Jerry Schmitt and his assistants.

With that being said, Wagner has struggled heavily on offense, currently ranking 122nd of 124 FCS teams. This constitutes an ideal matchup for the stubborn Dukes defense. Whatever the result, it will have significant implications for both teams. With a win, the Dukes will remain undefeated in conference. They’ll also continue to control their destiny as they pursue another NEC Championship.

If Wagner pulls off the upset though, they would still be merely one game out of first place in the NEC. A loss would likely knock them out of contention.

All things considered, this is an intriguing matchup well-suited for the excitement of Homecoming week on the Bluff.

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