Dukes Open 2010 Football Season at Home Versus Bucknell on Saturday
Sept. 1, 2010
Game #1 - Dukes open 2010 season under the lights
RADIO: WMNY-AM 1360 with Alex Panormios (play-by-play) & Tad Maurey (color)
DUKES OPEN WITH BUCKNELL ... AGAIN: Duquesne kicks off its 84th season of football under the lights against Bucknell on Saturday, Sept. 4 at 6:00 p.m. (WMNY-AM 1360). Overall, the Dukes are 48-21-3 in season openers (records available since 1902, DU fielded its first team in 1891), including a 2-3 mark under sixth-year head coach Jerry Schmitt. This marks the ninth time in the past 14 years Duquesne has faced Bucknell in the season-opener (1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 are the others). The Dukes are 12-6 in season-openers since 1992 with all six losses coming to Bucknell. Last year, DU finished 3-8 in its second season in the Northeast Conference. This is Duquesne's third season as a scholarship-granting football program. With the move to the NEC, Duquesne offered 18 scholarships in February of 2008. That number has increased by two in each of the past two years. Duquesne granted only need-based financial aid for football playing student-athletes as a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Football League from 1994 through 2007. The NEC competed as a non-scholarship member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision until 2006 when the conference adopted an athletics-based aid model. This is the first season the NEC regular season champion will be and automatic qualifier for the Division I Football Championship. Duquesne returns 17 position starters from last year's team.
DUKES AND BISON: Bucknell leads the overall series 9-4 ... this is the 12th meeting between the two schools in the past 14 years ... the two times BU and DU did not meet over that span were 2001 & 2005 ... Duquesne ended a four-game series losing streak with a 35-14 win over Bucknell at Pittsburgh on Sept. 7, 2002 and snapped a five game skid with a 24-19 win on Rooney Field in last year's opener ... two years ago, Bucknell scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 42-7 halftime lead and survived a spirited second half Duquesne rally to post a 48-42 season-opening win over the fast-closing Dukes at BU's Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium ... DU quarterback - now receiver - Connor Dixon, who was 2-of-6 for nine yards in the first quarter, rallied to complete 30-of-47 passes for 429 yards and a school record six touchdowns for Duquesne, which rallied to score 35 points in the second half ... Dixon's 429 yards were nine shy of the school record of 438 set by Tony Zimmerman in 2000 ... the game was the first at Duquesne for Dixon who had transferred in from Michigan State ... last year, Dave Williams caught 11 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown in his Duquesne debut and the DU defense limited Bucknell to 163 second half yards in the win ... Dixon came off the bench to complete 15-of-21 passes for 212 yards for the Dukes ... Dixon, who was a teammate of Williams three years ago at Michigan State, entered the game on the final series of the first quarter to replace starter Kevin Rombach who was forced to leave the game with a concussion ... Dixon and Williams connected 10 times for a total of 138 yards ... Duquesne, which finished with 322 yards passing, outgained Bucknell 429 to 360.
In four meetings under current head coach Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne is averaging 28.3 points and 457 yards per game vs. Bucknell ... the Bison have averaged 31.5 points and 410 ypg. over that same span.
YOU AGAIN?: This is the second consecutive season Duquesne will open with Bucknell. Last year, the Dukes ended a five-game Bucknell series win streak with a 24-19 victory. Duquesne will be looking to post two straight wins over the Bison for the first time since 1933 & 1934.
HOME SWEET HOME: Duquesne is 66-21-0 all time at Rooney Field including winning streaks of 16, 14 and 10 games. Duquesne owns non-conference home wins over Lafayette (twice), VMI, Bucknell (twice), Butler, Morehead State, Fordham and Dayton among others over the past 11 seasons.
DUQUESNE AT ROONEY FIELD
WELCOME BACK: Three players who were expected to be the heart-and-soul of the 2009 receiving corps are back after missing significant playing time due to injuries. 2009 Preseason All-NEC tight end Sean Bunevich (North Ridgeville, Ohio/North Ridgeville) saw his season ended before it began with a non-contact knee injury suffered at practice on August 11. Bunevich, who was held out of spring drills while rehabbing, was slowed by a hamstring injury in fall practice. He is expected to see action versus Bucknell. Promising sophomore receiver Akeem Moore (Pittsburgh, Pa./Brentwood) was sidelined with internal injuries suffered on the first series at Nicholls State on Sept. 12. Moore who started 10 times in the defensive backfield as a freshman, had four catches in two games (20.4 ypc.) prior to the injury. He participated in limited drills in the spring and is back at full strength for 2010. Michigan State transfer Dave Williams (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) went down with a shoulder injury in week five last year versus Robert Morris. Williams was leading the Dukes with 29 catches for 385 yards at the time. Moore and Williams, who were the Dukes' top two deep threats, combined for 15 catches for 227 yards in the opening day win over Bucknell.
MR. CLUTCH: The injuries to the receiving corps last season forced head coach Jerry Schmitt to do some experimentation. One of the by-products of the injuries was the move of 6-5, 206-pound Connor Dixon (South Park, Pa./South Park) from quarterback to receiver. Dixon, who threw for 429 yards and a school record six touchdowns at Bucknell in his first start in the 2008 opener, had difficulty recovering from 2009 shoulder surgery and was shifted to receiver eight games into last season (he came off the bench to complete 15-of-21 passes for 212 yards in last year's 24-19 win over Bucknell). In four games at receiver, the Michigan State transfer caught 22 passes for 333 yards. All seven of his catches of 20 yards or more, including a season-long 43-yarder versus Wagner, came in the fourth quarter. In all, he had 13 catches for 250 yards in the fourth quarter alone in 2009.
OUCH!: Last year, a total of 13 starters missed at least one game due to injury. The list included the following returnees: TE Sean Bunevich (season/injured in preseason), QB/WR Connor Dixon (one game), CB Aaron Fitzpatrick (four games), TE (now OL) Brian Layhue (season/played in the opener), CB Justin Melhado (one game), WR Akeem Moore (season/injured in game two), LB Anthony Rhoades (one game), DL Tyler Scruggs (two games), DL Aldon Sutton (one game), LB Nathan Totino (two games) and WR Dave Williams (season/injured in game five).
A DEARTH OF DEPTH AT QB: Last season, three different quarterbacks started at least twice for the Dukes in Kevin Rombach six times, Connor Dixon three times and redshirt freshman Sean Patterson (Toledo, Ohio/St. John's Jesuit) two times. That kind of depth won't be a luxury in 2010. Rombach graduated as the most accurate thrower in school history (.606 completion percentage) and Dixon, after repeated shoulder injuries, has been moved to receiver leaving Patterson, now a sophomore, as the only QB on the roster with experience. Patterson, who completed 25-of-52 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns in 2009, took all of the snaps in the spring as the lone QB in camp. The 6-1, 200-pound lefty didn't see his first action until the fifth week of the season against Robert Morris. He started against both CCSU (13-of-26 for 187 yards and two TDs) and at Saint Francis (5-of-10 for 100 yards before giving way to Rombach). True freshmen Marty Mitchell (Dearborn, Mich./Divine Child) and Richie Piekarski (Hudson, Ohio/Hudson) are running neck-and-neck for the backup spot.
TOTINO KNOWS TACKLES: Senior linebacker Nathan Totino (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-La Salle), a first team All-NEC pick in 2008, has led the Dukes in tackles in each of the past two seasons. The 5-10, 210-pounder has done so despite injuries that limited him to nine games in both 2008 & 2009. Totino currently ranks sixth nationally among FCS players in career tackles per game at 9.857 per contest. Totino, who has missed spring drills in each of the past two years, has topped the 10 tackle mark 15 times in 28 career games including a career-high 23 stops two years ago against Albany. The 23 stops, which tied the single-game high by any FCS player in 2008, were the most by a DU player since the school moved to the FCS level in 1993.
THE REAL McCOY: Sophomore Larry McCoy (Wytheville, Va./George Wythe), a three-time NEC Rookie of the Week last season, enters 2010 as the Dukes' top returning rusher. The 5-11, 215-pound Virginia native topped the 100-yard mark four times (34-195 at Nicholls State, 14-118 at Dayton, 20-107 vs. Robert Morris and 20-121 at Sacred Heart) in leading all FCS freshman rushers with a 73.4 yards per game average (160 carries for a team-high 807 yards and eight touchdowns). McCoy's 195 yards at Nicholls were the most by a Dukes' back since Mike Hilliard rushed for a school record 323 yards against La Salle in 2003. His five touchdowns at Sacred Heart tied the school record set by Hilliard vs. La Salle in 2003. McCoy, who broke loose for a 67-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage at Dayton, topped the 100-yard mark in the second quarter. McCoy was named Rookie of the Week after the Nicholls State, Robert Morris and Sacred Heart games. McCoy averaged 5.0 yards per carry last season.
A WELCOME ADDITION: Dave Opfar, who served as head coach at Saint Francis, Pa. for the past eight seasons, is in his first year as defensive coordinator for the Dukes. This is the second stint on the Bluff for Opfar who began his college coaching career at Duquesne as the defensive line coach under Greg Gattuso in 1993. The McKeesport, Pa. native, who served on the Dukes' staff along with current head coach Jerry Schmitt (then the offensive coordinator for DU), spent five years at Duquesne eventually serving as defensive coordinator for DU's 1996 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Football League championship team. Opfar inherits a defense that ranked 106th of 118 teams in rushing defense last season. The 2009 Dukes were dented for 376 yards per game (197 on the ground). The installation of Opfar's first edition of Duquesne defense was aided by the addition of two of his former assistants in linebacker coach/special teams coordinator Michael Craig and defensive backs coach Darnel Richardson.
A STAFF WITH DEEP ROOTS: Every coach on the Duquesne staff either played in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) or at Duquesne University. Head coach Jerry Schmitt played at Keystone Oaks High School. Linebackers/special teams coach Michael Craig played at West Allegheny HS, offensive coordinator Niel Loebig played at South Fayette HS (and Duquesne), receivers coach Dave Loya played at East Allegheny HS (and Duquesne), defensive line coach Chris McKillop played at Kiski Area HS, defensive coordinator Dave Opfar played at South Allegheny HS, offensive assistant Dwain Painter played at Gateway HS, defensive backs coach Darnel Richardson played at South Allegheny HS and assistant head coach/offensive line coach Mike Silianoff played at Gateway HS. The other two coaches on staff, defensive backs coach Jeremy McCullough and running game coordinator/running backs coach Matt Stansfield, despite not playing high school ball in Western Pa., played collegiately at Duquesne.
GREEN AND GROWING: Fifty-nine of the 92 players on the opening day roster are freshmen or sophomores. The breakdown: seniors (16), juniors (17), sophomores (18) and freshmen (41). A total of 14 freshmen saw action in 2009.
GIMME SOME MOORE: Sophomore Akeem Moore (Pittsburgh, Pa./Brentwood), who started all 10 games two years ago in the defensive backfield (one and cornerback and nine at free safety), moved to the offensive side of ball in the spring of 2009. Moore, who showed his hands with three picks that he returned a team-high 111 yards in `08, ran the third leg for Duquesne's school record-setting 4x100 relay team last spring. He showed a glimpse of his potential with four catches for 82 yards - including a 35-yarder - in last year's season opener against Bucknell before suffering an internal injury on the third play from scrimmage at Nicholls State. The injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. He is back at full strength for 2010.
WILLIAMS BACK: Second-year senior receiver Dave Williams (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway - Michigan State transfer) got his Duquesne career off to a flying start with 11 catches for 145 yards in the season opening 24-19 win over Bucknell last year. Williams, whose 35-yard TD reception in the third quarter proved to be the game winner, was named NEC Offensive co-Player of the Week for his effort. The 11 catches tied four others for the second-highest single game total in school history. Williams, who was injured on the opening series at Nicholls State (back) the next week, did not re-enter the game until just over 11 minutes were left and immediately made his presence felt by catching an 83-yard touchdown pass from Connor Dixon on his first play back. The clutch TD tied the game at 7-7. Williams, a Pittsburgh native, added nine more catches for 92 yards at Monmouth before being lost for the season with a shoulder injury suffered vs. Robert Morris. Williams was named preseason 2010 All-NEC by the league's coaches.
ALL TAY: Senior defensive lineman Thaimu Bangura (Lanham, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt) joined Dave Williams on the 2010 preseason All-NEC team as chosen by the league's coaches. Bangura (first name pronounced TAY-moo) has played in 29 of 31 games over the past three seasons. The 6-3, 278-pounder, who has led the team in sacks in each of the past two seasons, enters his senior year with 9.5 career sacks. He led all DU defensive linemen with 42 total tackles (15 solo) last season. Bangura has 14 career tackles for loss.
CAPTAINS: A trio of seniors have been named permanent captains for the 2010 season. They are linebacker Nathan Totino (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-La Salle), receiver Connor Dixon Connor Dixon (South Park, Pa./South Park) and defensive lineman Thaimu Bangura (Lanham, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt). Game captains will also be named on a weekly basis.