Dukes Head to Dayton to Face Red Hot Flyers
Sept. 7, 2011
Game #2 - Dukes on the road again for clash with streaking Dayton Flyers
RADIO: WMNY-AM 1360 with Alex Panormios (play-by-play) & Tad Maurey (color)
DUKES AT DAYTON: Duquesne, coming off a last minute 27-26 loss at Bucknell last Saturday, heads west to face the Pioneer Football League's Dayton Flyers (1-0) on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 1:00 p.m. (WMNY-AM 1360). DU, which handed 10-1 UD its lone loss last season, is opening with back-to-back road games outside of western Pennsylvania for the first time since 2000. Duquesne, which finished 7-4 in its third season in the Northeast Conference (5-3, 3rd in 2010), saw a 16-3 lead turn into a 17-16 deficit in the last two minutes of the first half at Bucknell. DU regained the lead, only to see the Bison drive 82 yards to win it on a fourth-and-one score with 57 seconds left. Dayton extended its win streak to an FCS-best 10 games with a season-opening 19-13 win at NEC preseason No. 3 pick Robert Morris.
MORE ON THE DUKES: This is Duquesne's fourth season as a scholarship-granting football program and fourth season as an associate member of the Northeast Conference. With the move to the NEC, Duquesne offered 18 scholarships in February of 2008. That number has increased to 28 this season. 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 second season the NEC regular season champion will be an automatic qualifier for the Division I Football Championship.
STREAKING: Dayton enters Saturday's game with the longest win streak in the FCS at 10. The Flyers last defeat was at Duquesne on Sept. 11, 2010 (35-31).
DUKES AND FLYERS: Although Dayton and Duquesne share membership in the Atlantic 10 Conference in other sports, football meetings between the two schools were scarce up until 2001. The Dayton/Duquesne football series dates all the way back to a 20-0 Duquesne home win over the Flyers on Nov. 13, 1920. The two also met in a home-and-home series in 1923 and 1924 with Dayton winning 27-0 at Pittsburgh on Oct. 6, 1923 and also taking a 28-0 decision on Oct. 18, 1924 at Dayton. Dayton's 42-16 win at Rooney Field in 2001 - in addition to ending a 14-game DU home winning streak - marked a renewal of the series. In 2002, Duquesne, ranked No. 2 in The Sports Network I-AA Mid-Major Top 10, went to Dayton and defeated the No. 1 Flyers 35-28. Duquesne defeated Dayton 24-16 three years ago in the Flyers' second trip to Pittsburgh since 1923 to even the series at 3-3. In 2009, UD returned the favor, defeating the Dukes 24-17 at Dayton. Last year, Ohio native Sean Patterson hit Sean Bunevich with an eight-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds left to give Duquesne a dramatic 35-31 win over Dayton at Rooney Field.
SERIES BITS: The series is tied at 4-4 ... in games at Dayton, the Flyers lead 2-1 ... Duquesne handed Dayton its lone loss last season with a 35-31 win at Rooney Field on Sept. 11 (UD finished 10-1) ... DU also tagged Dayton's 2002 Mid-Major National Championship team (11-1) with its lone defeat (35-28 at Dayton) ... Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt is 2-1 against the Flyers with both wins coming on Rooney Field.
HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: The quarterback and placekicker for the Dukes in the 1920 win over Dayton was none other than Art Rooney. Rooney, for whom Duquesne's home field is named, went on to become one of the most respected figures in the history of the National Football League as the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rooney was enshrined in the Pr o Football Hall of Fame in 1964.
IN NON-CONFERENCE PLAY: Duquesne is 15-14 in non-conference games under seventh-year head coach Jerry Schmitt with wins over Robert Morris (three times prior to joining the NEC), Bucknell (twice), Dayton (twice) and Fordham (twice). At home, the Dukes are 10-2 in non-league play, while on the road Schmitt's Dukes have fashioned a 5-12 mark. DU is looking to end a seven-game skid in non-conference road games. The Dukes' last non-conference road win was on Oct. 13, 2007 at Saint Francis, Pa. (24-17). DU is opening with back-to-back road games for the first time since 2006 (at Bucknell and at Robert Morris). The last time the Dukes opened with two games outside of the greater Pittsburgh area was in 2000 (at VMI and at La Salle).
BUCKNELL LEFTOVERS: Duquesne was denied a third consecutive win over Bucknell ... DU is 0-7 at Lewisburg in the series which dates back to 1933 ... head coach Jerry Schmitt is now 3-4 in season-opening games with two of the wins over the Bison ... senior Isaac Spragg (Westfield, Va./Valley Forge Military Academy), who entered the game with eight catches in 22 career games, finished with nine receptions for 100 yards ... his 22-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter was a career long ... graduate student receiver Connor Dixon (South Park, Pa./South Park), who was granted a sixth year of eligibility Friday afternoon, caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Sean Patterson on his first play from scrimmage early in the second quarter ... it was the first time the 6-5, 206-pounder had touched a football field since last November ... Dixon was not permitted to practice with the team while awaiting a decision ... he finished with two receptions for 21 yards to extend his personal streak to 16 consecutive games with a catch ... he has caught a pass in every game since moving from quarterback to receiver eight games into the 2009 season ... junior running back Larry McCoy (Wytheville, Va./George Wythe) carried 30 times for 112 yards ... it was his seventh 100-yard game in his past nine outings and 11th of his career ... McCoy, who topped the 100-yard mark on his 26th carry early in the fourth quarter, carried eight times for 40 yards in the third quarter ... junior quarterback Sean Patterson (Toledo, Ohio/St. John's Jesuit) completed 19-of-35 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns ... he has thrown for at least two scores in six of his last seven games ... junior linebacker Chidozie Oparanozie (Pittsburgh, Pa./Linsley School), a three-time NEC Rookie of the Week in 2008, had a team high-tying eight tackles (four solo) in his first game back ... Oparanozie left school in spring of 2009 ... junior linebacker Zach Richert (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland) had a pair of sacks to bring his career total to 5.0.
A WELCOME ADDITION: Duquesne was informed roughly 30 hours before the season opener that receiver Connor Dixon (South Park, Pa./South Park) was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. The appeal request was based on an illness and injury Dixon suffered in 2006 and 2007 respectively at while Michigan State, which limited his participation during his first two college seasons. A second team All-NEC pick in 2010 who had not practiced with the team since last November, Dixon jumped in a car with his father and met the team in Williamsport, Pa. in time for Friday night's dinner. The offensive coaches quizzed him on the playbook and Dixon, a former quarterback, passed with flying colors. He entered the game in the second quarter and caught a 14-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-goal on his first play to give DU a 13-3 lead. The 6-5 Dixon, who had 43 catches for 602 yards and five TDs last season, went on to add a second catch of seven yards in limited action. A LITTLE EXPERIENCE: For the first time in recent memory, the Dukes entered a season with an upperclass-laden roster. Of the 88 players on the roster (as of Sept. 3) the class breakdown is as follows: seniors (19) (including grad students), juniors (16), sophomores (13) and freshmen (40) (freshman numbers are skewed due to the inclusion of redshirts). Of the 2011 returnees, 31 started at least once last season. Of the 45 position players listed on the opening-day 2-deep, 16 were are seniors and 13 were juniors. There was only one true freshman on the opening day 2-deep, back-up cornerback Devin Williams (Concord, Calif./De La Salle). Kick returner David Thomas (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic) was the lone true freshman to see action in the opener at Bucknell.
IN THE TRENCHES: DU's experience is best reflected in the offensive line, where four starters return from last season (the fifth starter, Brian Layhue, moved from offensive tackle to tight end). The o-line started intact for all 11 games last season. Here are the returning starters with number of consecutive starts in parentheses: 6-5, 305, LT Ron Dunn (32), 6-3, 274 LG Eric Warning (12), 6-2, 307 C Cameron Downey (23) and 6-2, 268 LG Jamaal Thomas (31).
ON THE MOVE: Key position changes from last season: junior Serge Kona, a starter in all 11 games last season at inside linebacker, has moved to safety ... senior Brian Layhue, who started all 11 games at right tackle last season, moved to tight end in the spring ... Layhue played tight end in 2008 & 2009 ... redshirt freshman Rich Piekarski, who reshirted as a quarterback in 2010, has moved to safety.
THE REAL McCOY: Junior Larry McCoy (Wytheville, Va./George Wythe), the nation's 11th-leading rusher last season (117.4 ypg.), posted all six of his 100-yard games in DU's final eight outings of 2010. The 5-10, 220-pound Virginia native was a model of consistency last season, rushing for between 74 and 246 yards on no fewer than 18 carries in any game. McCoy is the top returning junior career rusher (95.4 ypg.) in the FCS. He picked up where he left off with 112 yards on 30 carries in the season-opening loss at Bucknell.
POWER SERGE: Junior Serge Kona (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg), the Dukes' leading returning tackler (64 stops, 36 solo) made the move from linebacker to safety in the spring. The 5-10, 215-pounder - who has established himself as one of the NEC's hardest hitters, has shown a nose for the football in his first two seasons on the Bluff. In two seasons, the Maryland native has amassed 17 tackles for loss, broken up four passes, forced three fumbles and recovered two. Kona, who will also be returning kickoffs and punts in 2011, was named to the preseason All-NEC team.
A PAT ON THE BACK: Junior Sean Patterson (Toledo, Ohio/St. John's Jesuit), who threw for 2,050 yards in 20 touchdowns in his first season as a starter, is back under center for the Dukes. The 6-2, 210-pounder is the fifth player in school history to throw for over 2,000 yards in a season. Patterson, a two-time NEC Offensive Player of the Week last season, has completed 53.2 percent of his career passes.
SOMETHING TO SPRAGG ABOUT: Senior receiver Isaac Spragg (Westfield, Va./Valley Forge Military Academy), who entered the season with eight catches for 67 yards in 22 career games, exploded for nine catches for 100 yards and at TD (22 yds.) in the season opener at Bucknell. The catches, yards, touchdowns and long catch (the 22-yard TD) were all career bests.
NO HO: Duquesne suffered a serious loss when sophomore Ryan Ho (Pearl City, Hawaii/Kamehameha Schools) suffered a dislocated ankle on a kickoff return with 1:43 left in the first half at Bucknell. Ho, who entered the year as the backup to Larry McCoy, ranked fourth nationally - and led the NEC - with a 29.4 yard kickoff return average as a true freshman in 2010.