Football wins again, moves to 4-0 in conference play

Courtesy of Erika Bakirtzis | Duquesne wide receiver Kellon Taylor catching a touchdown pass in the first half of Saturday’s win over Saint Francis at Arthur J. Rooney Field. Taylor wrapped up the afternoon with a team-high 101 receiving yards and now has three touchdowns on the year.

James Leo | Staff Writer

Nov. 7, 2019

The Duquesne Football team (6-2, 4-0) continued its dominance in NEC play with a 30-21 win over Saint Francis on Saturday, Nov. 2.

In addition to adding another “W” to the Duke’s record, Saturday’s win also marked a milestone for Duquesne football. It gave head coach Jerry Schmitt his 98th win at Duquesne, making him the winningest football coach in Duquesne’s history.

“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good players over the years, and a lot of good staff; it’s a collective thing for all of us. That’s special each season, when you start 4-0 [in the NEC],” Schmitt said. “We’re grinding out some things right now, and I’m happy with the way we’re finishing games. We’ve also had some injuries we’re battling through, and our guys are stepping up.”

Duquesne faced one obstacle on Saturday that they hadn’t yet this season: the cold.

“We usually get it sporadically in October, but it’s been really warm so far. This is really the first dose that we’ve gotten of it, so we just have to get used to it,” Schmitt said.

If Saturday’s game was any indication, Duquesne will thrive in the cold. Their run defense, second in the NEC in opponent rushing yards allowed per game, gave up a measly 23 rushing yards to Saint Francis on Saturday. The Dukes also forced a few timely turnovers (including two fumbles), which gave their offense good field position on their ensuing drives.

They were also able to pressure Saint Francis quarterback Jason Brown into a flurry of mistakes — for instance, an interception in the 4th quarter ended a Saint Francis drive that was well into Duquesne territory.

The Dukes were able to tally two sacks and six tackles for loss yardage against SFU, and forced Brown to throw many near interceptions.

Overall, Schmitt was happy with his defense’s performance.

“Our defense kept them in check; that [SFU] offense has a lot of long receivers that are talented,” Schmitt said. “Their quarterback is great when he gets outside the pocket; he keeps his eyes downfield. A couple of their big play were off of that, but again I thought we kept them in check.”

Duquesne’s offense was also able to put pressure on Saint Francis early. Their opening drive, which started on their own 40-yard line, went well into Saint Francis territory before ending with an unfortunate interception at the SFU 3.

Their offense would remain persistent, though. They would soon get on the board with a five-play, 71-yard drive to end the first quarter.

The Dukes went on to add another touchdown (and two field goals) in the first half to take a 20-14 lead into the half.

The second half saw more of the same from the Duquesne offense. Their two scoring drives in the second half both came in the third quarter, and took more than nine minutes off the clock.

Even when Duquesne didn’t score, they made sure to maintain long drives; they possessed the ball on offense for 38 minutes. Their offense featured a complementary balance of run and pass throughout the game; they gained 221 yards through the air and 183 yards on the ground.

This balance allowed them to mix up their play-calling and remain unpredictable as the game progressed.

Senior wide receiver Kellon Taylor was especially key for the Dukes’ offense. He torched the Saint Francis secondary en route to his first 100-yard performance as a Duke.

Schmitt was impressed with the receiver’s outing.

“He’s been working his tail off, and he’s been a great leader this season. He’s really stepped up as our senior receiver,” Schmitt said. “I thought he had a gutty, gritty performance today; he caught some tough balls today, and wouldn’t come off the field even when he had a shoulder problem.”

As good as they have been in the NEC, Duquesne’s schedule only gets tougher from here.

They face the only two other undefeated teams in the NEC — Robert Morris and No. 19 CCSU — in the next few weeks.

Thankfully for the Dukes, the game against Robert Morris on Nov. 9 is close enough to feel like a “home game” and their regular season finale against CCSU on Nov. 22 will be played on the Bluff. Both games can be viewed on NEC Front Row; coverage starts at noon for the game against RMU, while it starts at 1 p.m. for their game against CCSU.

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