If any team didn’t want a week off, it likely was the Duquesne Dukes, who entered their bye week winners of their past four games. But while you never want to take a break when you are on a winning streak, a rest could have been just what the doctor ordered.
The Dukes (4-1, 2-0) have made it a tendency of starting games slowly, only to rally in the fourth quarter to find ways to win football games. In fact, Duquesne has trailed in the fourth quarter in three of their four victories. That’s something head coach Jerry Schmitt hopes a week off will cure.
“I don’t want to keep paying that way,” said Schmitt. “It’s a testament to our team that we can pull things together and execute in pressure situations, but I’m hoping we can start to put four good quarters of football together.”
Schmitt will get the chance on Saturday to see if the week off did his team any good as Duquesne looks to win a fifth consecutive game when they travel to take on Central Connecticut State (0-5, 0-2).
The Blue Devils haven’t started a season 0-6 since 1986 and if the Dukes want to see that happen they should look no further than their defense.
After allowing 47 second-half points in the season-opening 57-23 loss at Old Dominion, the Duquesne’ defense has given up just 21 second-half points in its past four games. The Dukes not only tighten up during the games final two quarters, but have the tendency to make the big play as well. The Dukes have 10 interceptions through five games, and rank 10th nationally in turnover margin. Seven players have picked off a pass led by preseason All-American Serge Kona with three.
That, in addition to outstanding play by the Duquesne linebacker trio of Horvin Lattimer, Dorian Bell and Chidozie Oparanozie, gives a Duquesne team a good defense that is coming together nicely, despite bringing back only four starters from a season ago.
“I like where we are at as a unit,” said Bell, who has 35 tackles in his past three games. “We have a bunch of guys that are capable of making plays and when we are in close games in the fourth quarter, we take it personally. We don’t want to let anyone score on us and that means someone has to make a play. It’s almost been a different person every week, but the important thing is that someone steps up.”
Offensively, it should be the same recipe for the Dukes as they’ve had a very nice balanced attack all season.
However all eyes will be on running back Larry McCoy, who needs only 162 yards to pass Donte Small and become DU’s all-time leading rusher. McCoy has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in 19 of his past 24 games, including the past four in a row and has run for 571 yards in his past four games.
In addition, the senior ball carrier is one of just six NCAA players (all levels) with over 4,000 career rushing yards and only one player in college football (all levels) has carried the ball more than McCoy (829 entering Saturday).
“It’s an honor,” said McCoy. “But it’s a team game. Much of the credit goes to the coaching staff and the offensive line. I’m just out there doing my job. As long as we win games, that’s all that is important.”
Kickoff is scheduled for noon on Saturday as the Dukes will look for their eighth consecutive Northeast Conference win, dating back to last season.
Photo Credit: Post-Gazette