Saturday, Oct. 4 at 1:00 p.m.
Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field (2,200/Sportexe) • Pittsburgh, Pa.
DUKES HOST NEC PRESEASON FAVORITE ALBANY
Albany, which has won three of the past six NEC titles, was picked repeat as champion in a preseason poll of league coaches. The Great Danes have played the toughest schedule of any NEC school to date, with four consecutive road games at Colonial Athletic Association schools. Three of the four CAA schools (No. 5 Massachusetts, No. 10 New Hampshire and No. 17 Delaware) were nationally ranked when Albany faced them.
The Great Danes, who lost by 12 at UMass (28-16) and eight at New Hampshire (32-24) are coming off a 38-7 loss at Delaware. Albany is the only program in all of Division I (FBS or FCS) to not play a home game until the month of October.
Duquesne, which is 64-15 all time at Rooney Field (43-6 since 1999), scored 14 fourth-quarter points to end Dayton's FCS-best 10-game win streak. Duquesne first-year sophomore quarterback Connor Dixon (Michigan State transfer), has thrown for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns in three games. His 297.3 yards of total offense/g. ranks 8th in the FCS. As a team, DU ranks 10th nationally in passing offense.
Tailback Cleodis Williams has topped the 100-yard rushing mark in each of DU's past two games. The last Duquesne running back to have three consecutive 100-yard games was Mike Hilliard who did it four times in a row (seven times total) during the 2003 season. OLB Nathan Totino has had 10 or more tackles in each of DU's first three games. His 12.3 tackles per game rank 10th nationally.
DUKES AND GREAT DANES
This is just the second meeting between Duquesne and three-time Northeast Conference champion Albany ... the Great Danes, picked as the preseason favorite by league coaches, have won or shared three of the past six NEC titles, including last year's ... UAlbany's conference record over that six-year span is 31-10 ... this is the NEC opener for Albany, which brings a six-game conference winning streak into this afternoon's game ... in the only meeting between the two schools, Albany handed 11-0 Duquesne a 24-0 defeat in the 2002 ECAC Classic played at Albany's University Field ... it is one of only three times a Duquesne team has been shut out since moving to the FCS level in 1993 ... Albany has yet to play at home this season ... this is their fifth-straight road game this year.
DON'T LET THE RECORD FOOL YOU
Albany has lost to three nationally ranked FCS schools on the road: 28-16 at No. 5 Massachusetts; 32-24 at No. 10 New Hampshire and 38-7 at No. 17 Delaware ... the Great Danes won at Hofstra, 22-16 in overtime, on Sept. 13.
The Great Danes have won seven of nine NEC openers since joining the league in 1999 ... Albany played before the second-largest crowd in the program's history (22,197) last weekend at Delaware ... the Blue Hens, who avenged a 17-10 upset loss two years ago on the same field, scored on their opening four possessions of the second half to pull away. ... Delaware was the fourth of four consecutive Colonial Athletic Association opponents to begin Albany's schedule ... the Duquesne game is the school record eighth consecutive road game for Albany ... junior TB David McCarty had his school record nine-game, 100-yard rushing streak halted at Delaware ... McCarty, who ranks eighth on the school's career rushing list with 1,981 yards, has scored a touchdown in 12 consecutive games ... he ranks 11th nationally in rushing at 120.0 yards.g ... junior QB Vinny Esposito ranks ninth on Albany's career total offense chart with 2,638 yards ... OLB Rich Duff had a career-high 10 tackles at Delaware ... ILB Justin Brancaccio added nine stops and one pass break-up vs. the Blue Hens.
Duquesne's victory snapped Dayton's 10-game win streak, which was the longest in the Football Championship Subdivision at the time ... Dayton, which entered the game leading the nation with 4.7 sacks per game, was only able to reach Duquesne quarterback Connor Dixon once ... the Duquesne offensive line, which entered the game ranked ninth nationally in fewest sacks allowed per game, has surrendered just two sacks on 105 pass attempts this season ... Duquesne has now won the last two meetings with Dayton to tie the all-time series at 3-3 ... junior tailback Cleodis Williams (Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle) posted his second consecutive 100-yard game with 103 yards on 25 carries ... the last DU running back to run for 100 yards in back-to-back games was Mike Hilliard in 2003 (26-159 at Marist & 36-126 vs. Robert Morris) ... Williams had 129 yards on 23 carries in DU's win over Saint Francis, Pa. ... sophomore Nathan Totino (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-La Salle), who had a game- and career-high 16 tackles (10 solo) in the season opener at Bucknell and 11 more in game two against Saint Francis, posted his third-straight double-digit tackle game with 10 stops ... Totino is averaging a team-high 12.3 tackles per game ... placekicker Mark Troyan (Ford City, Pa./Ford City), who made 12-of-13 field goals last season, including all seven attempts inside the 40, missed from 40 and 32 yards before connecting on a 31-yarder in the first half ... tight end Sean Bunevich (North Ridgeville, Ohio/North Ridgeville) caught three passes for a career-high 92 yards ... Bunevich is the third different Dukes player to set a new receiving yardage high in three games this year ... Alex Roberson set career-bests for catches (11) and yards (154) in the opener at Bucknell and Conrad Carter caught four passes for a career-high 107 yards last week against Saint Francis ... freshman linebacker Chidozie Oparanozie (Pittsburgh, Pa./The Linsly School (W.Va.)), who was named NEC Rookie of the Week after posting a pair of interceptions and six tackles vs. Saint Francis, won the award for a second-straight week after finishing with a season-high nine tackles (all solo) against UD... fellow freshmen Wiley Brown (Waldorf, Md./Fork Union Military Academy) and Aaron Fitzpatrick (Erie, Pa./McDowell) added nine stops each.
Michigan State transfer Connor Dixon (South Park, Pa./South Park), who won a spirited battle with returning starter Kevin Rombach (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) for the starting quarterback position, has thrown for 11 touchdowns in three games. Dixon, who was the No. 2 quarterback at Michigan State last season, was 4-of-14 for 13 yards in the first quarter prior to going 6-of-11 for 105 yards against Dayton. This is the first extended playing time for Dixon since he led South Park HS to the Class AA Pennsylvania State Championship with a 16-0 record in 2005 ... Dixon redshirted at Michigan State in 2006 and played in one game for the Spartans last season before deciding to transfer closer to home in June ... Dixon was rated as a top 20 quarterback nationally (No. 17 by rivals.com) prior to committing to MSU.
Senior co-captain Greg Hough (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland), who moved from running back to linebacker in the spring, is back at running back. Hough played in the opener at LB prior to making the move back to the offensive side of the ball during the off week. Hough began his career as a running back in 2005 and was a first team All-MAAC linebacker in 2006. He was a second team All-MAAC running back last season leading the team with 191 carries for 801 yards and five touchdowns. Hough set the school record for longest interception return when he took one back 98 yards for a score at La Salle in `06. Hough had a big 14-yard run to key DU's final scoring drive in the 24-16 win over Dayton.
Junior Cleodis Williams (Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle), who missed the past two seasons while attending to academic issues, has assumed the featured running back role this season. Williams, who last saw action as a freshman in 2005, took a short pass 38 yards for a TD at Bucknell and followed that with 129 yards on 23 carries vs. Saint Francis and 103 yards on 25 rushes vs. Dayton. The 129 yards vs. SFU were most by a DU back in the Jerry Schmitt Era.
Starting offensive tackles Steve Kuhns (Lafayette, N.Y./Christian Brothers Academy) and Matt Kikta (Upper St. Clair, Pa./Upper St. Clair) have started every game in their DU careers (23 in a row entering Albany). Both started as true freshmen in 2006, with Kuhns' first 20 starts coming at left guard. Kikta and Kuhns are part of an offensive front that has allowed just two sacks in 105 pass attempts in 2008.
Senior Alex Roberson (Waynesboro, Ga./Curtis Baptist Upper School), DU's top returning receiver, set career highs for catches (11) and yards (154) in the opener at Bucknell and followed that with three catches for 51 yards - including a 12-yard TD - vs. Saint Francis. The 6-3, 205-pounder added an 11-yard go-ahead score in the fourth quarter of DU's 24-16 win over Dayton. Roberson, who entered the season averaging 16.9 yards per catch for his career, averaged 20.2 yards on 34 catches last season. He has caught at least one pass in each of the past 25 games he has played and topped the 100-yard mark in five of his past 10 games. Fellow senior Conrad Carter (Clinton, Md./Archbishop Carroll) has caught a pass in 21-straight games. Carter, who shares the team lead with Roberson with three TD receptions, pulled in a Rooney Field record 91-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left in the first half vs. Saint Francis. The pass play was the secoond-longest in school history and longest ever at Rooney Field. Carter, whose 107 yards on four catches vs. SFU were a career high, now has touchdown catches of 91 (Sr.), 66 (Fr.), 56 (So.) and 49 (Jr.) yards to his credit.
TOTINO KNOWS TACKLES
Sophomore linebacker Nathan Totino (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-La Salle), who ranked fourth nationally among FCS freshmen with an average of 9.3 tackles per game last season (93 stops in 10 games), leads the Dukes with 37 tackles. Totino, who was named MAAC Rookie of the Week five times on the way to being named 2007 MAAC co-Rookie of the Year, posted a career-high 16 tackles (10 solo) at Bucknell and followed that with a game-high 11 stops vs. Saint Francis and a team-best 10 vs. Dayton. He has led the Dukes in tackles in all three games this season.
Senior cornerback Aaron Strader (Pittsburgh, Pa./Westinghouse), a preseason All-NEC pick, opened the season with a career-best 10 tackles at Bucknell. Strader, who was the MAAC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2005 and first team All-MAAC in 2006 & 2007, has a team high nine career interceptions.
GREEN AND GROWING
Fifty-six of the 85 players on the current roster are freshmen or sophomores. The breakdown: seniors (9), juniors (20), sophomores (17) and freshmen (39). Sixteen freshman - including six freshman starters - played in the opener at Bucknell. In all, 11 players made their first career starts at Bucknell. The 2-deep for the Albany game lists seven freshman starters, including five on defense: DE Ashton Burno, two-time NEC Rookie of the Week MLB Chidozie Oparanozie, OLB Wiley Brown, SS Akeem Moore and CB Aaron Fitzpatrick. Two more freshmen are slated to start on the offensive line: LG Cameron Downey & RG Ron Dunn.
14-STRAIGHT WINNING SEASONS
DU, which won 39 consecutive MAAC games between 1999 and 2006, ranks behind only Eastern Kentucky (30) and Montana (22) among Football Championship Subdivision schools with 14 consecutive winning seasons.
HOME SWEET HOME
Duquesne is 64-15-0 all time at Rooney Field (2-0 this year) including winning streaks of 16, 14 and 10 games. DU saw a 14-game home win streak snapped in a 42-16 loss to Dayton in 2001. Duquesne owns non-conference home wins over: Lafayette (twice), VMI, Bucknell, Butler, Morehead State, Fordham and Dayton among others over the past nine seasons.