Saturday, Sept. 12 at 1:00 p.m. (Central)
Guidry Stadium (3,300/FieldTurf synthetic turf) • Thibodaux, La.
The last time a Duquesne team played west of the Big Muddy was on Nov. 27, 1947 when the Dukes, who did not field a team from 1943-46 to help with the war effort, lost at Saint Louis, 14-13, to end a 2-8-0 season.
Duquesne, which is coming off a season-opening 24-19 home win over Bucknell, is in its second season as a scholarship-granting football program. With last year's move to the Northeast Conference, DU 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 COLONELS
This is Duquesne's first meeting with Nicholls State in addition to being the school's first-ever matchup against a school from the Southland Conference.
THE LONGEST BY FAR
The 1,157-mile trip to Thibodaux, Duquesne's longest since a season-ending 14-13 loss at Saint Louis on Nov. 27, 1947, is DU's longest trip of the modern era (since the program was reinstated in 1969). Duquesne's previous long trip was 461 miles to Chicago to face Loyola, Ill. on Oct. 3, 1970. DU has also made the 457 mile trip to Albany, N.Y. to face Siena while in the MAAC and Albany in the NEC.
Nicholls State is in its 38th year of football ... the Colonels, who joined the Southland Conference in 1991, last won the league title in 2005 ... Nicholls owns two wins over D-1 Football Bowl Subdivision schools including a season-opening win at Rice, 16-14 on Sept. 1, 2007 ... Rice, which competes in Conference USA, was coming off a bowl appearance the year before ... the Colonels starting safeties began their careers at SEC schools ... senior strong safety Tyson Andrus started his career at Ole Miss then went to LSU and senior free safety Jordan Nevels played at Kentucky before transferring ... the Colonels have had at least one player selected in the NFL Draft in each of the past three seasons (Jacob Bender, OT, by the NY Jets in 2007, Kareem Moore, FS, by the Washington Redskins in 2008 & Lardarius Webb, SS, by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009) ... Bender is currently with the San Francisco 49ers, Moore is a mainstay on the Redskins special teams and Webb is expected to make the Ravens final roster ... Nicholls is coming off its worst loss in school history, 72-0, at Air Force last Saturday ... the Falcons gained 576 yards (474 on the ground) and scored 10 touchdowns in the win ... Nicholls, which was 3-6 last year, was picked to finish seventh in the eight-team SLC in a preseason poll of league coaches ... this is Nicholls Hall of Fame game.
The win, Duquesne's first over Bucknell since Sept. 7, 2002 (35-14 at Rooney Field), ended a five-game Bucknell series winning streak ... the two teams combined 448 yards of total offense in the first half (251 for Duquesne and 197 for Bucknell) ... senior quarterback Kevin Rombach (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) left the game late in the first quarter with a concussion ... Rombach completed 7-of-10 passes for 110 yards in a little under one quarter of action ... junior quarterback Connor Dixon (South Park, Pa./South Park), who did not participate in spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery, entered the game for the final series of the first quarter ... he finished 15-of-21 for 212 yards including a 35-yard scoring strike to Dave Williams ... junior Michigan State transfer Dave Williams (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) caught 11 passes for 145 yards in his first game in a Dukes uniform ... 10 of the catches for 138 yards came from Dixon ... the 11 catches tied the second-highest single-game total in school history and helped him earn NEC co-Offensive Player of the Week honors ... junior Nathan Totino (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-La Salle) finished with 10 tackles ... it was his 12th double digit tackle effort in 20 career games ... Totino also forced a fumble and was in on a sack to stop a pair of third quarter Bucknell drives ... true freshman Horvin Latimer (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) picked off a pass in the third quarter ... Duquesne missed a 23 yard field goal attempt on the following series ... two plays later, Latimer recovered a fumble to thwart Bucknell's next drive ... freshman Bill Bair (Valencia, Pa./Mars Area) took his second career carry 32 yards for a score in the second quarter ... Bair finished with 55 yards rushing on nine carries ... sophomore linebacker Anthony Rhoades (Oxford, Pa./West Philadelphia Catholic/Arizona Western) finished with a career high 12 tackles (eight solo) ... his previous best was seven last season against Sacred Heart.
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, has taken over 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) has caught at least one pass in 21 consecutive games ... three-quarters of the starting secondary is made up of newcomers ... JC transfers junior Justin Melhado (Ridgewater, Minn. Community College) is the starter 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 the starter at strong safety ... this is the first season 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, who was 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).
TOTINO KNOWS TACKLES
Junior co-captain linebacker Nathan Totino (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-La Salle) earned first team All-NEC honors last season despite missing the last game of the season due to a knee injury. The 5-10, 210-pounder, who did not participate in spring drills while recovering from December 2008 surgery, ranks third among FCS active leaders with a 10.6 tackles per game career average. Totino has topped the 10 tackle mark 12 times in 20 career games including a career-high 23 stops last year against Albany. The 23 stops, which tied the single-game high by any FCS player last season, were the most by a DU player since the school moved to the FCS level in 1993. The Pittsburgh native, who added 16 stops at CCSU, posted double digit tackles in DU's first seven games of 2008. Totino's 5.8 career solo tackles per game average is the best among active FCS players.
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 .614 and the school record is .549), has thrown for 3,372 yards and 28 touchdowns with just eight interceptions in 404 career attempts. He is 10-3 as a starter with a career quarterback rating of 150.41. 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. The Harrisburg, Pa. native completed 7-of-10 passes for 110 yards - including a 36-yard TD pass to Michael Rasky on the game's first possession - in just under a quarter of action in the season opener against Bucknell before suffering a head injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the game. He has been cleared to practice and is expected to play at Nicholls State.
DID YOU KNOW?
Duquesne senior quarterback Kevin Rombach ranks fifth among active FCS quarterbacks with a 150.41 career pass efficiency rating. His career .614 completion percentage ranks 17th among active FCS QBs.
ON THE MEND
Junior quarterback Connor Dixon (South Park, Pa./South Park), who missed spring drills after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, came off the bench to help the Dukes to a 24-19 win in the season opener versus Bucknell. Dixon, who wasn't expected to see much action as he continues to work back into playing shape, completed 15-of-21 passes for 212 yards, including a decisive third quarter 35-yard TD strike to Dave Williams, in three quarters of action. The second-year Michigan State transfer threw for 1,899 yards and 20 touchdowns last season despite shoulder soreness which limited him late in the season. Dixon threw for over 300 yards in a game twice in 2008, with 429 yards in his first Duquesne game last year at Bucknell and 338 more versus NEC champion Albany.
WHAT A START!
First-year junior receiver Dave Williams got his Duquesne career off to a flying start with 11 catches for 145 yards in the season opening 24-19 win over Bucknell. Williams, whose 35-yard TD reception in the third quarter proved to be the game winner, was named NEC Offensive co-Player of the Week for his effort. The 11 catches tied four others for the second-highest single game total in school history. Williams, a Pittsburgh native, played at Michigan State for two seasons before transferring to DU.