Sat, Oct 5 vsWest Liberty
12:10 PM ET
Division II West Liberty comes to Duquesne on October 5th. The Hilltoppers were 6-5 last year, playing games largely within WV and the immediate surrounding area. They are no strangers to the greater Pittsburgh area, having played Seton Hill at Greeensburg last year, but there the familiarity will end.
The last time the Dukes played a Division II team was in 2007, their last year in the old MAAC. Back then, they squared off against Frostburg State out of Maryland. Duquesne won handily, 37-10, en route to a 6-4 record.
The ‘Toppers, kicking off October football at Rooney Field, play in the similarly-equipped Russek Field, with a capacity of 4,000.
Brandon Schroeder, WR: While WLU is not a great passing team in terms of efficiency they rely on it more than their running game. Schroeder was far and away the leader of the receiving corps, with 47 receptions for 547 yards.
Darrel Stanley, WR: Stanley was the other main WR for this team, and his 23 receptions for 325 yards is also gone. Stanley and Schroeder made up just under half of the Hilltoppers passing yardage, and nearly a third of their total offensive yardage.
Players to Watch:
Marco Richetti, FS: Richetti had five interceptions last year. He also had 7 tackles for loss.The Dukes will need to know where he is when they’re out on offense.
Keys for the Dukes:
While WLU forced 21 interceptions last year, they also gave up 21. If the Dukes can be careful when passing and get pressure on the likely starter, Dylan Lagarde (who threw 14 picks last year), this should be a breeze.
Sat, Oct 12 vs Wagner
1:10 PM ET
Duquesne’s “Homecoming” game this year comes against the Seahawks of Wagner College. I put “homecoming” in quotes because the previous week was also a home game, but why split hairs? October 12th brings in a BIG conference matchup for the Dukes – the top two preseason teams – as well as a (hopefully) nice day for the alumni events that traditionally take place. As far as NEC football goes, you can’t have a bigger matchup than this.
Of course, these big match ups seem to be wrought with speculation anymore as realignment continues to rock collegiate conferences. Wagner was hoping to take a berth in the MAAC, along with the departed Quinnipiac and Monmouth. It isn’t clear what route their football program would have taken in such a scenario, though Monmouth elected to be an independent this year and then join the Big South next. Alas, it was not to be and the Seahawks are still here. Obviously, they have designs on something bigger, and that could spell trouble for the NEC. Six teams are the fewest that a conference can have to remain eligible for the playoffs, and that’s where the NEC would be without Wagner. Something may have to be done to solidify the league.
Wagner earned the NEC’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs last year by beating the Dukes in the last game of the season 23-17 and owning the tiebreaker with Albany due to their earlier victory. Wagner went on to win their opening round game against Colgate, later losing to Eastern Washington 29-19 on the strange red turf that they seem to like out there.
Wagner has two tough games before they play the Dukes, going against FBS Syracuse and traditional FCS power Delaware.
Nick Doscher, QB: Doscher was a 1st team All-NEC selection last year. While not a particularly amazing passer, Nick was very efficient and good at making the throws he needed to and running the ball well. “Game manager” sometimes has a bad connotation, but Doscher was that in the most positive sense of the term.
Players to watch:
Dominique Williams, RB: Williams scored the NEC-clinching touchdown against the Dukes last year, as well as one other. He returns as a 5th-year senior.
Most of the Defense: Wagner only returns four starters from last year’s NEC championship team. Returning first team All-NEC pick Jarrett Dieudonne, a cornerback, is one of those returners. He has good hands and is one of the better DBs the Dukes will see this year.
Keys for the Dukes:
All three of Wagner’s touchdowns against the Dukes last year came on the ground. If you’re sensing a theme, you’d be right, as four of the Dukes first five games are against teams who love to run. Wagner was 107 out of 121 teams in the Championship Subdivision last year in passing yards per game. They like to keep their quarterback mobile and keep defenses guessing. Containment will be the number one priority for the Dukes. Three out of Wagner’s prior four games will have been on the road, and two of those will see Wagner significantly outmatched. If the Dukes can strike early, it may knock the wind out of the Seahawks.