Duquesne Dukes football considered a favorite in Northeast Conference


The students are back on the Bluff for a new fall semester, and it is time to renew the tradition and create a new chapter of Northeast Conference football – 115 feet above downtown Pittsburgh – at Duquesne University.

Ninth-year head coach Jerry Schmitt talked to sportsnetwork.com about competing in the NEC: “There’s no doubt across the board that every team is getting better and better each year, playing quality out-of-conference opponents. You look across the board, and it’s a battle every week.

“Even more so when you look at all the talented athletes that made the preseason team. Every school is going to be prepared. There’s no doubt it’s a very strong conference.”

Last season, the Dukes went 5-6 overall and 3-5 in the NEC. The NEC coaches gave the Wagner College Seahawks four of the seven first-place votes to finish at the top of the their preseason poll. The remaining three votes went to Duquesne, which claimed the poll’s runner-up spot for the third year in a row.

The Bryant University Bulldogs finished third and the Robert Morris University Colonials fourth. The five through seven slots were awarded to the Saint Francis University (Pa.) Red Flash, the Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils, and the Sacred Heart University Pioneers.

Schmitt is 47-37 in eight seasons on the Bluff and 75-58 overall in his career. In 2011, he led Duquesne to a 9-2 record and a NEC Co-Chamionship with a 7-1 record. The Dukes finished the 2010 campaign with a 7-4 record and a third-place league finish with a 5-3 mark.

Senior wide receiver Gianni Carter, senior offensive lineman Nick Redden and senior linebacker Dorian Bell were named to the All-NEC Preseason Team. The Dukes return 13 starters with seven on offense and six on defense. Of the 2013 returnees, 25 of them started at least one game last season.

It has been reported that redshirt freshman Dillon Buechel from McKees Rocks, Pa., has won the battle to fill the cleats of three-year starting quarterback Sean Patterson. The 6-foot-3 Beuchel beat out senior Marty Mitchell for the start against the University of Albany on Saturday.

Beuchel will have a fine trio of wide receivers to throw to starting with Carter who had 57 receptions last season for 865 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior Sean Brady was good for 619 yards on 51 catches and six touchdowns. Junior Noel Oduho contributed 48 receptions for 501 yards and two touchdowns.

Junior running back Ryan Ho, who had 184 yards on 45 rushing attempts and one touchdown last season, has gotten the nod to replace all-time rushing leader Larry McCoy atop the depth chart. The native of Pearl City, Hawaii, also returned 18 kicks for 417 yards on special teams last season.

The leader of the defense will be Bell, who led the Dukes with 92 tackles and 6 1/2 sacks last season despite missing three games of the regular season with a hand injury.

Duquesne opens its 87th season of football at home as the Dukes host the University of Albany Great Danes on Saturday at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field; kickoff is set for 12:10 p.m. Last year, Albany went 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the NEC under head coach Robert Ford. This season, the Great Danes compete as a football-playing member of the Colonial Athletic Association.

It is the seventh meeting between the Dukes and UAlbany and it is the first non-conference match up between the two schools since the 2002 ECAC Classic. The Great Danes lead the all-time series 5-1.

Dukes Notes: Overall, Duquesne is 49-23-3 in season openers and 12-8 in season openers since moving to the FCS level back in 1993.

The Red and Blue will take on the Youngstown State University Penguins for the first time in school history on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Stambaugh Stadium. YSU, which won at Pitt last year, will play at Michigan State the week before it hosts the Dukes.

Homecoming is set for Saturday, Oct. 12 as Duquesne hosts the Wagner College Seahawks at Rooney Field.

The Northeast Conference and ESPN have reached an agreement to make ESPN3 the exclusive home of NEC football in 2013. ESPN3 will follow Duquesne when the Dukes go on the road Nov 9. to take on the Sacred Heart University Pioneers at 12 p.m. in Fairfield, Conn.