Penguins slide past NEC Champions Duquesne

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Duquesne finished the season with a conference title, but were 1-4 outside of NEC play.

Matthew Theodros | Staff Writer

Duquesne had its season come to an end in a 40-7 loss at Youngstown State on Saturday in the first round of the FCS playoffs.

The week prior, the Dukes earned their place in the postseason, by defeating Merrimack 26-14 in a de-facto Northeast Conference championship game. The win gave the Dukes their second outright NEC title and first playoff bid since 2018. The next day, they gathered in Cooper Fieldhouse for a Selection Sunday watch party, where they learned they wouldn’t have to travel far for the playoffs.

With the loss Duquesne falls to 1-3 all-time in FCS playoff games. They finished the year 7-5, but dominated conference opposition for a 6-1 league record.

Duquesne struggled to gain any movement on the offensive end. All-conference freshman running back Edward Robinson broke loose for a 24-yard touchdown with a minute remaining in the first quarter. The offense was limited to this lone score for the entire contest.

Youngstown State hit on all cylinders, dominating in all facets. The Penguins scored with ease, and out gained Duquesne, 532-148. A goal-line stand in the first half helped Duquesne preserve a 10-7 deficit, but they remained unable to keep pace with the Youngstown State offense.

Penguins quarterback Mitch Davidson passed for 316 yards and two touchdowns, while receiver Bryce Oliver had a career day, catching nine passes for 181 yards and a score.

Duquesne quarterback Darius Perrantes was held to just three completions for 33 yards, by far his season low in both categories. Backup Matt Robinson entered the game and completed six for 41 yards. The Dukes were not able to string consecutive plays on drives, with many ending as three-and-outs. A measly 1-of-11 performance on third downs contributed to the lack of offensive gain. The lack of consistency on the offensive end threw the team out of rhythm as guys were not able to convert on typical plays.

“When we weren’t moving the football and getting the first downs, we weren’t able to get into our normal rotation and getting some guys some quality carries or catches out of the backfield,” said Head Coach Jerry Schmitt.

The Penguins advance to the second round to play Villanova on Dec. 2.

Despite Duquesne’s playoff run coming to an end, it was an big moment for the program and school. The team improved leaps and bounds from last season, improving on their 4-7 record.

The sentiment amongst the team and Head Coach Jerry Schmitt following the loss was that this team can build on their newly acquired success after a taxing year.

“This team learned how to overcome adversity,” Schmitt said. “From playing seven games on the road and playing the teams we played, the FBS teams, they learned how to overcome adversity. We will use that to continue on.”

Duquesne’s last appearance in the FCS playoffs was in 2018 when they beat Towson in the first round, before falling to national powerhouse South Dakota State in the round of 16.

Schmitt finishes his 19th season coaching at Duquesne with intentions to build off their strengths and establish a winning culture where making the postseason is common.

“There’s lots of great people in this program,” said offensive lineman Michael Dorundo. “I’m really happy with how this season went. Obviously, it’s not the outcome you want, but when you make the playoffs there’s going to be [23] teams that don’t win that championship.”

Winning the NEC championship meant a lot to the entire roster of guys who were yet to win a ring with the program.

“Being in the city of Pittsburgh, coming straight from[home] 30 minutes away, it’s really cool to put it on for a city with lots of expectations,” Dorundo said. “It feels good to really finally live up to those expectations and win our NEC championship.”