Saturday, Sept. 5 at 6:00 p.m.
Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field (2,000/Sportexe synthetic turf) • Pittsburgh, Pa.
DUKES OPEN WITH BUCKNELL
Duquesne kicks off its 83rd season of football under the lights against Bucknell on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 6:00 p.m. (WMNY-AM 1360). Overall, the Dukes are 47-21-3 in season openers (records available since 1902, DU fielded its first team in 1891), including a 1-3 mark under fourth-year head coach Jerry Schmitt.
This marks the eighth time in the past 13 years Duquesne has faced Bucknell in the season-opener (1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 & 2008 are the others). The Dukes are 11-6 in season-openers since 1992 with all six losses coming to Bucknell.
Last year, DU finished 3-7 in its inaugural season in the Northeast Conference. This is Duquesne's second season as a scholarship-granting football program. With last year's move to the NEC, Duquesne offered 18 scholarships. That number is expected to increase by two each year over the next three years. Duquesne granted only need-based financial aid for football playing student-athletes as a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Football League from 1994 through 2007. The NEC competed as a non-scholarship member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision until 2006 when the conference adopted an athletics-based aid model. Duquesne returns 15 position starters from last year's team.
DUKES AND BISON
Bucknell leads the overall series 9-3 ... this is the 11th meeting between the two school in the past 13 years ... the two times BU and DU did not meet over that span were 2001 & 2005 ... Duquesne ended a four-game series losing streak with a 35-14 win over Bucknell at Pittsburgh on Sept. 7, 2002 ... since then, the Bison have won five in a row ... in Bucknell's last trip to Pittsburgh on Sept. 1, 2007, Duquesne scored on each of its first three drives - and four of the first five - but would not score again as visiting Bucknell held on for a 28-19 win at Rooney Field in the season opener for both schools. ... last year, Bucknell scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 42-7 halftime lead and survived a spirited second half Duquesne rally to post a 48-42 season-opening win over the fast-closing Dukes at BU's Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium ... DU quarterback Connor Dixon, who was 2-of-6 for nine yards in the first quarter, rallied to complete 30-of-47 passes for 429 yards and a school record six touchdowns for Duquesne, which rallied to score 35 points in the second half ... Dixon's 429 yards were nine shy of the school record of 438 set by Tony Zimmerman in 2000 ... the game was the first at Duquesne for Dixon who had transferred in from Michigan State.
- Last year Duquesne and Bucknell combined for 1,022 total yards (485 for Duquesne and 537 for Bucknell) and 90 points in BU's 48-42 win
- In three meetings under current head coach Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne is averaging 29.7 points and 466 yards per game vs. Bucknell
- The Bison have averaged 35.7 points and 427 ypg. over that same span - all Bucknell wins.
- Duquesne has posted eight wins over Patriot League schools since 1999. No current or former MAAC, Pioneer League or Northeast Conference school has won more than five games versus teams from the Patriot League.
Duquesne suffered a major loss when preseason All-NEC tight end Sean Bunevich (North Ridgeville, Ohio/North Ridgeville) was lost for the season following a non-contact knee injury suffered at practice on August 11 ... sophomore Brian Layhue (Belle Vernon, Pa./Belle Vernon), who filled in when Bunevich injured the same knee late last season, will assume the starting TE spot ... Layhue caught all eight of his passes in DU's final three games last season ... two of Layhue's eight catches went for scores ... senior receiver Michael Rasky (Irwin, Pa./Penn-Trafford) opens the season with a streak of at least one reception in 20 consecutive games ... three-quarters of the projected starting secondary for the Bucknell game will be made up of newcomers ... JC transfer junior Justin Melhado (Ridgewater, Minn. Community College) is scheduled to start at one cornerback spot with fellow junior Devin Duggan (Valley Forge, Pa. Military College) penciled in at free safety ... in addition, true freshman Derrick Lakins (Upper Marlboro, Md./DeMatha) is listed as the starter at strong safety ... this will be the first game for defensive coordinator Ollie Phillips ... Phillips, who was the defensive coordinator for DU's 1995 MAAC championship team, has nine years of Division I coaching experience ... he replaced Joe Bernard, who coordinated DU defenses from 2003-08 ... Phillips has been joined by veteran Dick Hopkins ... Hopkins, who is working with the defensive backs, brings nearly 30 years of college coaching experience to the DU sidelines ... Hopkins, a quarterback/tight end at Florida State in the early 1970's, has coached at 11 different schools since 1981 including Duke (1981-82), Cinicnnati (1983), Rice (1984-85) and Vanderbilt (1986-88) among others ... Phillips and Hopkins hope to help a DU defense that ranked 86th nationally last season (381,2 ypg. including 192,5 ypg. on the ground).
Senior co-captain quarterback Kevin Rombach (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin), brings a wealth of experience to the Dukes backfield. The 6-1, 205-pounder finished camp No. 1 on the depth chart as junior Connor Dixon continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. In Rombach, the Dukes have a quarterback who is so respected that he was named NEC preseason Offensive Player of the Year prior to to being beaten out by Dixon prior to last season. Rombach, who is on pace to shatter the school career completion percentage record (he's at .612 and the school record is .549), has thrown for 3,262 yards and 27 touchdowns with just eight interceptions in 394 career attempts. He is 9-3 as a starter with a career quarterback rating of 149.27. Rombach started the final two games last year in place of an injured Dixon. He completed 10-of-20 passes for 112 yards and a TD as the Dukes snapped a five-game losing streak with a 14-0 win in fog and steady rain at Wagner. He followed that by completing 12-of-16 passes for 71 yards in a season-ending 37-14 loss to Monmouth. Two year's ago, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,410 yards and 20 TDs on the way to earning first team All-MAAC honors. Rombach took over an 0-2 team and led it to wins in six of the final eight games as the starter. Rombach completed 8-of-14 passes for 231 yards and three TDs in this year's spring scrimmage.
GREEN AND GROWING
Fifty of the 80 players on the opening day roster are freshmen or sophomores. The breakdown: seniors (13), juniors (17), sophomores (21) and freshmen (29). Last year, a total of 25 freshmen saw action in at least one game. Of the 19 freshmen who returned, 15 started at least once.