The view looking over the home sideline vs. West Liberty

Five Keys vs. the Pioneers


20 Yard LineThe Saint Francis game was a dress rehearsal for what the Dukes face this week. They showed that they can stop the run, and that’s good – they’ll need that ability here -but the Sacred Heart Pioneers bring a lot more to the table. Here are some of the more important points to the game for the Dukes if they are to emerge victorious.

1) Stop Spence without the DBs

Against St. Francis, you could commit a lot of personnel to stopping the run because the Red Flash weren’t really a threat to throw the ball in any meaningful way. It wasn’t a big risk to go to single coverage or man coverage because they were so unlikely to throw, and if they did it was not very likely to be on-target. The same isn’t the case here. Spence gains a lot of yardage, but only nine touchdowns belong to him. The quarterback gets a lot of credit, too.

R. J. Noel, like Buechel, has been added to the Jerry Rice award watchlist, the trophy given to the top rookie in FCS. His numbers show that he deserves it, with 20 passing touchdowns and another half dozen rushing. Noel can throw and will throw – this offense does not run entirely through Keshaudas Spence’s feet. The Dukes will need to respect the pass and will need to expend some energy containing a QB who also likes to run himself.

The Dukes may have some help here, as Spence may not be at 100%:

Spence had just 42 yards on the ground in that game last weekend.

2) Watch the big play

Sacred Heart gets a lot of production from the big play. They sustain drives that they probably shouldn’t and often get touchdowns from them.

Their big playmaker? Wideout Tyler Dube. RJ Noel has found him downfield on some big plays, like a 38 yard touchdown pass against Bryant. While not the only threat among the SHU corps of receivers, Dube is a favorite target this year and is a threat to score. He gets nearly double the receptions per game as the next most active Pioneers receiver.

3) Please, for the love of Pete, don’t turn the ball over.

This has been a pretty consistent problem for the Dukes. If there’s a team that will make you pay for it even worse than Bryant did, it’s the Pioneers. Why? Because they have seven touchdowns scored off of turnovers this year, whether interceptions or fumble recoveries. With 32 turnovers generated on the year – and surprisingly few of them happened against some of the cupcake opponents – this is something very important to watch.

4) Lose the predictable playcalls

The Dukes have an offense that can be among the most effective in the conference when they want to. Sometimes the playcalling prevents that and we have also seen that such calls have been leading to interceptions. The Dukes need to be far more aware of this when they line up against the Sacred Heart defense. Going run-run-run is more likely to lead to a three-and-out than not. Going run-run-pass has been a recipe for turnovers. The Dukes need to keep the ball moving and avoid the obvious passing situations. A few tries at letting Ethan Dorsey try some fullback for Ho or Douglass wouldn’t be out of the question, either.

5) Make adjustments – because SHU will too

Wagner beat Sacred Heart – barely. How did they do it? They stopped Spence, holding him to 90 yards. However, the Pioneers weren’t content with that and started throwing. They were successful, too, very nearly coming back to win the game. Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be much of a blueprint.

It definitely beings with stopping the run – that’s how Wagner did it, and that’s how Monmouth nearly beat them last week. The Dukes must be aware that this isn’t a one-dimensional team and be ready for anything.

Prediction:

With the win over SFU, I fall to 5-2. I’m happy to have been wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t feel incredibly confident here. Stopping Harbridge alone was one thing – this is a better offense. Still, Wagner, SFU, and even Monmouth provide some insight and you’d better believe that the Dukes will be looking at that tape. IF the Dukes can avoid turnovers, they will win this game.

Duquesne 24, SHU 20.

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Tags: Duquesne Dukes Keshaudas Spence Sacred Heart