Dukes Open Home Season Sat. at 6 vs Bucknell

The Dukes' 2009 football season kicks off Saturday night on Rooney Field when the second-year Northeast Conference team host familiar Patriot League foe Bucknell. Kickoff is at 6:00 p.m.

RedZoneMedia.com again provides the radio/internet play-by-play. Live stats (GameTracker) on the GoDuquesne.com website where streaming video is also available - a subscription of either $10 or $15 per month is required for the video feed.

Duquesne, with its second scholarship recruiting class since the 1950 season, is continuing the transition from its championship non-scholarship program, which played in the now-defunct Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). Fifty of the 80 players on DU's roster are either freshmen (29) or sophomores (21).

Last season the Dukes were 3-7, 2-5 in NEC play. This halted their streak of winning seasons at 14. Duquesne is picked for sixth in the now-nine team league; Bryant University (RI), a former Division II program, is a full member for the first time this season.

Coach Jerry Schmitt is entering his fifth season on the Bluff. Schmitt, who was an assistant coach and offensive coordinator at Duquesne for 11 seasons, has a 27-13 record at the helm for the Dukes. His career mark is 51-38.

Schmitt started his head coaching career at his alma mater, Westminister, where he engineered the program's transition from Division II to non-scholarship Division III. Now, he's in the process of accomplishing the reverse.

Bucknell, meanwhile, is coming off a 5-6 season and 2-4 in Patriot League action. The Bison were picked sixth (of seven teams) in the league's preseason poll. Bison lead the series, 9-3, and has a 5-0 winning streak over the Dukes under head coach Tim Landis.

The Dukes already lost part of its offense this summer. Senior tight end Sean Bunevich, who was a preseason ALL-NEC pick, had surgery on a knee-injury suffered during the August 11, 2009, practice. One other Duke, junior linebacker Nathan Totino, was named to the all-conference team.

Totino and redshirt senior quarterback Kevin Rombach are the team co-captains. Rombach, who lost the starting job to Michigan State-transfer Connor Dixon at the beginning of the 2008 campaign, is back in the opening lineup. Dixon, who missed the end of last season with a shoulder injury, is coming back from offseason surgery.

Rombach is on pace to shatter the school career completion percentage record: he's at .612 and the school record of .549 belongs to Neil Loebig, currently Duquesne's passing game coordinator.

Rombach 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.

The Dukes prime rushing threat, redshirt senior Cleodis Williams, is back. "Cleo" gained 849 yards on 190 carries (4.5 ypg), for 86 percent of the Dukes' rushing yardage last season. He scored five touchdowns, four on the ground.

On the receiving end, the top returnee is senior Michael Rasky, fourth on the 2008 squad with 22 catches for 313 yards and four TDs. A couple new targets are sophomore wideout Akeem Moore, who started all 10 games last season in the defensive backfield, and redshirt junior Dave Williams, who transferred from Michigan State for the Spring 2009 semester.

The veteran offensive line includes just one newcomer, sophomore Jamaal Thomas who saw limited action in 2008.

The starting defensive line will have a new look with three part-time starters (9 of a possible 30) and freshman Mathew Glose, who set a school record with 9.5 sacks last season at Saint Francis (NY) High School.

Joining Totino in the linebacker corps are sophomore Anthony Rhoades, whose freshman action was limited due to an injury, and junior Willie Millhouse, a starter at safety last season who also handles kickoff return chores - his 40 career kickoff returns are the fifth most and his 898 kickoff return yards is third on DU's career lists.

Three newbies will be joining redshirt sophomore Aaron Fitzpatrick in the defensive backfield. -- junior college transfers Justin Melhado from Ridgewater (MN) Community College and Devin Duggan, a Seaford Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 at Valley Force Military Academy, and freshman Derrick Latkins, an ESPN RISE honorable mention at DeMatha Catholic H.S.

Two frosh will be handling the kickoff chores. Replacing four-year starter Mark Troyan at placekicker will be Eric Duale from Hinckley, Ohio. The punter is Charlie Leventry from Johnstown, Pa.


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