When Duquesne Dukes head coach Jerry Schmitt looks back on the 2012 season, he will look back on missed opportunities and a great senior class.
While it will be very hard to replace a successful class of seniors that included: running back Larry McCoy, quarterback Sean Patterson, safety Serge Kona, linebacker Horvin Latimer and others, it will be the missed opportunities throughout the season that prevented this Dukes team from potentially repeating their success from a season ago and potentially winning the Northeast Conference title.
After being blown out in the second half of their opener to nationally ranked Old Dominion, Duquesne reeled off four straight wins and had their season looking very good until they dropped five of their final six games, including four in a row to end the season.
A 5-6 season meant this talented Duquesne team underachieved, but their final five losses came by a grand total of 25 points, meaning that the Dukes were very close to seeing things turn out differently.
“People say it all the time,” said Patterson. “But I really believe we were just a handful of plays away from being a playoff team. We can’t do anything about that now but we were good enough to win every game.”
A big reason that the Dukes seemed a couple plays away was the fact that they were always playing catch up. The words “second-half team” described this team to a T, as Duquesne got off to slow starts even in their wins and had to put together furious rallies in the second halves of games.
Sometimes those rallies simply fell short.
“I wish I knew,” said Schmitt. “We addressed it and worked on it all season, but for some reason we came out flat every week. I’m proud of the heart we showed to put together great second halves, but we could have made things easier on ourselves.”
Some of the reason for the slow starts could be put on the Dukes’ defense.
Duquesne returned only four starters from the 2011 defense that was one of the better ones in the nation and they often got off to slow starts, but the defense ultimately came together very nicely.
Kona and junior linebacker Dorian Bell were named First-Team All NEC while Latimer was named to the second team.
Kona, the 2011 NEC Defensive Player of the Year, led the Dukes with three interceptions. He also had 70 tackles and three quarterback hurries from the strong safety spot. Kona, who earned Associated Press All-America honors last year, is the first two-time first team All-NEC player in school history.
Bell, who appeared in eight games, led the Dukes with 92 tackles (54 solo). His 11.5 tackles per game would have led the NEC and ranked tied for seventh nationally had he met the NCAA minimum requirement for games played (75 percent of a team’s total). The Ohio State transfer also led the Dukes with 12.0 tackles for loss including a team-best 6.5 sacks. His three fumbles forced also would have tied for third in the NEC.
Latimer posted five double-digit tackle games from his inside linebacker spot on his way to finishing with 91 stops. His 8.3 tackles per game average ranked third in the NEC.
Duquesne was well represented on the other side of the ball as well as the offense had some big performances during the year.
McCoy broke the school’s all-time rushing record and despite losing close to 95 percent of his production at wide receiver from 2011, Patterson put together a very nice season and proved to be a great leader.
Junior wide receiver Gianni Carter played a big role in that and earned first team honors while four other seniors: McCoy, Patterson, offensive lineman Eric Warning and kicker Charlie Leventry were named to the second team.
Carter, a first-year transfer from Montana State, led the Dukes with 57 catches for 865 yards and 7 touchdowns. His 78.6 yards per game ranked second and his 5.18 catches per game ranked third in the NEC.
McCoy, who finished his career as the second-leading rusher in NEC history with 4,549 yards, was the conference’s second-leading rusher at 107.0 yards per game.
Patterson completed 198-of-341 passes for 2,359 yards and 17 touchdowns and ranked second in the NEC in total offense with 234.1 yards per game. His 17 TD passes tied for second-most in the conference.
Warning was a three-year starter at left guard and finished tied with Patterson for most consecutive starts among offensive players with 33.
Leventry set the Duquesne single-season records for field goals (15) and points by a kicker (78). His 1.36 field goals per game average led the NEC and ranks tied for ninth nationally.
With all of that production, you can see how the 2012 season will be viewed as a disappointment for this Duquesne team, especially the seniors, who Schmitt will miss in a big way.
“We will miss all of them for sure,” said Schmitt. “Every one of them were exceptional football players, but more importantly they are better people and outstanding young men.”
Photo Credit: Duquesne