Football silences Sacred Heart, 27-0

Photo Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Duquesne players preparing to take on the Pioneers. They’re on the verge of the FCS playoffs.

Michael O’Grady | Staff Writer

Duquesne football took care of business in Connecticut last Saturday, shutting out Sacred Heart 27-0 for its third straight win, while keeping their Northeast Conference record a pristine 4-0.

Duquesne Head Coach Jerry Schmitt was blunt about the win, saying, “We played solid football today.”

The Dukes dominated on both sides of the ball, rushing and passing for over 200 yards each while keeping Sacred Heart under 100 in both categories. They had more than twice as many first downs than the Pioneers, and were disciplined as well, garnering only three flags all game for just 20 yards.

Quarterback Darius Perrantes continued his streak of strong outings, going 13-24 for 203 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. DJ Powell was the recipient of both touchdowns to add to his NEC-leading eight, and Keyshawn Brown made six catches for 82 yards. But Duquesne’s rushing attack was the main catalyst in the game. Freshman back Edward Robinson exploded for the best game of his young career so far, totaling 120 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown. He was named an NEC Prime Performer for the week. Behind him, four other ball carriers rushed for an additional 109 yards, led by Taj Butts with 50.

Despite not forcing a turnover and only getting a single sack, the Dukes’ defense was phenomenal, holding every receiver but one to just one catch and keeping the Pioneers to 83 yards in the air. Sacred Heart had better luck on the ground, gaining 119 yards rushing, but Duquesne punished them, forcing 23 yards for loss and keeping the Pioneer net yardage to 96. Perhaps the most telling stat of the day was that Sacred Heart punted on 11 of 13 drives, and the remaining two were used to run out the first and second halves.

Duquesne was firing on all cylinders from the jump, winning the opening kickoff and marching down the field for a 69-yard drive. Perrantes connected with Tedy Afful and Brown on the drive for two 20-plus yard plays before flipping a 4-yard TD to Powell less than two minutes in.

“I thought Darius and the receivers were clicking,” Schmitt said. “He’s managing the offense and doing the right things, making the right reads.”

It would be more than eight minutes into the second quarter before Sacred Heart finally earned a first down, and at that point the Dukes had added six points courtesy of Brian Bruzdewicz’s 33 and 34 yard field goals. That drive for the Pioneers stalled at their own 43, and they opted to punt to Duquesne, who responded with a 70-yard drive punctuated with a Perrantes deep shot to Powell for a 59-yard TD.

“The corner was trying to wait on me to stop and I just took off and ran past him, and Darius did a good job putting the ball where it needed to be,” Powell said.

Duquesne was in good position to add to their 20-point lead on their first drive of the second half, but Perrantes was picked in the end zone trying to throw his third touchdown of the game. The backfield would make up for it on the next drive as Robinson and Brown combined to rush for 75 yards, Robinson scoring on a 33-yard TD.

Schmitt praised the offensive line for making Robinson’s big day possible.

“Eddie just had a really good day, he’s a downhill guy, and he did a nice job, but that offensive line, I give them a ton of credit for allowing us to run and throw today.”

Sacred Heart had a chance to score points when it crossed the Duquesne 40 for the first and only time late in the third quarter, but an unnecessary roughness penalty pushed it back and it wouldn’t come that close again. The Dukes were happy to eat clock and cruise to the 27-0 win in Fairfield.

Sitting atop the NEC, Duquesne can clinch part or all of their sixth conference title and first since 2018 with a win over Wagner on Staten Island Saturday afternoon.