As we noted in yesterday’s preview, St. Francis is probably a bit better than their record, especially when Harbridge is running well. After a statement win over the surprising SHU Pioneers, the Red Flash are suddenly in a position to make a run for the NEC conference title. Duquesne is currently tied for the lead in the NEC, so St. Francis will absolutely be bringing their A-Game. How can the Dukes counteract that? Read on.
1. Pull a Williams on Harbridge
Dominique Williams of Wagner is among the most talented running backs in the NEC. He didn’t get anywhere against Duquesne, and that was due to some excellent play from the DL getting penetration and the LBs finishing. This will have to happen again. Harbridge is one of those players that you’ll probably only be able to limit rather than truly contain.
Even games that have ended in failure for St. Francis still saw Harbridge gaining significant yardage – but his 12 touchdowns are the vast majority of offense for this team. The Dukes will need to control him at least a little if they are to have any success this Saturday.
2. Ix-nay on the Urnovers-tay
This is obvious and is a good way to beat any team. Still, it applies here because St. Francis is firmly in the plus side on turnover differential. They get a lot of interceptions, and Duquesne passes the ball quite a lot. Those deep plays that the Dukes seem to telegraph will be extra risky against the DBs of the Red Flash. The mistakes simply have to stop; it’s enough that you have to play against another team. You can’t also be an adversary to yourself.
3. Keep Rahming Involved
Devin Rahming has only not caught three balls thrown his way since NEC play began. He had a breakout game against RMU. He did have that fumble against Bryant, but between the receptions and the quality punt returns, that seemed to be more of an anomaly for a player who otherwise has taken care of the ball. The more receivers that Duquesne has active, the better off the team is in the face of a defense that likes to pick off passes. With Carter, King, Thomas, Oduho and now Rahming as threats, it thins out the coverage that Buechel will have to throw into.
4. Only run when the pass has set it up
The Dukes have had this strange tendency to get run-happy at odd times, occasionally abandoning the pass for long stretches outside of a third-and-long. This often occurs after primarily using the passing game to some positive effect. The offensive line hasn’t blocked well enough, nor have the running backs performed well enough, to warrant this type of play. I don’t mean that the Dukes should abandon the run entirely. It must be tempered by use of the passing game.
Ho and Douglas have also shown that they have decent hands, so use them in that way. When they’re in space, they can make things happen. Just look at the successes of some of the sweeps and other runs to the outside. Give them some space, then, and throw to them in the flat or on a screen play. It will only help the Dukes solve the St. Francis coverage.
5. Be Yourselves
This is a bit more all encompassing, and certainly we touched on some of this in the other points. Nonetheless, the point remains. The Dukes have to be themselves – not a team with a different philosophy all of the sudden or a team that’s a facsimile of themselves. If you’ll indulge me: The Dukes pass the ball well – they don’t have to act like it, they already do. The Dukes can stop the run – they don’t have to bite or oversell the play, they just need to execute.
Conversely, this isn’t a running team. Don’t act like it. Buechel’s long passes aren’t working yet. Don’t act like they are. If the Dukes utilize their strengths and forget overcompensating for weaknesses – because everyone has weaknesses – they just may put together their first truly compete game this year.
I’m now 5-2 in predictions.
Harbridge is very good for St. Francis, and that’s going to make this one tough. I also fear that the Dukes will give up the critical turnover(s) again. I’d love to be proven wrong.
St. Francis 24, Duquesne 20