Duquesne, which will be competing in its second season in the Northeast Conference this fall, started spring practice on Monday, March 30. Saturday’s game, which will consist of two 30 minute halves with a running clock for all but the final two minutes, is the last of 15 workouts.
The format will consist of the first team offense against the second team defense and the No. 2 offense versus the first-team defense on alternating series. The first team offense/second team defense will be the “home” team. The game will use conventional scoring.
The Dukes, who return 15 starters from last year’s 3-7 team, open the 2009 season at home against Bucknell on September 5.
“We’ve had a very productive spring,” said Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt. “We’re missing a few key players who are rehabbing injuries, but it has been encouraging to see other players stepping up.”
Schmitt was referring to first team All-NEC junior linebacker Nathan Totino (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-La Salle) and second team All-NEC senior tight end Sean Bunevich (North Ridgeville, Ohio/North Ridgeville) who are both recovering from off-season knee surgery. In addition, junior quarterback Connor Dixon (South Park, Pa./South Park), who started eight games last season after transferring in from Michigan State, has not participated in spring drills as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
Veteran senior quarterback Kevin Rombach (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) has taken the majority of snaps at quarterback this spring. Rombach, who has thrown for 3,262 yards with a 61.2 completion percentage in his DU career, was a first team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Football League pick in 2007. The Harrisburg, Pa. native, who started the last two games of 2008, has 27 career touchdown passes to his credit. Dixon, who battled shoulder soreness late last season, completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 1,899 yards and 20 touchdowns in nine games in 2008.
Senior tackles Matt Kikta (Upper St. Clair, Pa./Upper St. Clair) and Steve Kuhns (Lafayette, N.Y./Christian Brothers Academy) are back to anchor an offensive line that returns five starters. The duo leads all Duquesne returnees with 30 consecutive starts apiece.
Senior running back Cleodis Williams (Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle) will look to benefit from the experience up front. Williams, who led the Dukes with 849 yards rushing - including four 100-yard games - last season, will also be held out of the spring game with a leg injury.
Bunevich, who played in seven games prior to suffering a season-ending knee injury, is DU’s top returning receiver with 25 catches for 454 yards and a team-best 18.2 yards per catch. Senior Michael Rasky (Irwin, Pa./Penn-Trafford), who caught 22 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns in 2008 is also back.
Sophomore Akeem Moore (Pittsburgh, Pa./Brentwood), who picked off three passes for 111 yards as a true freshman safety last season, has made the move to receiver to help ease the loss of three-year starter Alex Roberson, who led the Dukes with 40 catches for 614 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Defensively, Totino, whose career average of 10.7 tackles per game ranks third among NCAA FCS returnees, will lead the way. Totino, who was injured in the second-to-last game of 2008, leads all active FCS players in solo tackles per game at 5.8. His 23-tackle game versus Albany tied the season high for tackles in a game by an FCS player in 2008.
Senior Mykol Gardiner (Cleveland, Ohio/Benedictine), a three-year starter, is back at defensive end. Gardiner had 3.5 sacks last season to bring his career total to 17.5.
Junior safety Willie Milhouse (Waldorf, Md./Thomas Stone), whose 58 tackles last season ranked fourth on the team, will lead the secondary.
“We’ve had some great competition which should culminate in some interesting battles in the spring game” said Schmitt. “We’ll also be able to get a good look at how both the offense and defense have come together over the past few weeks. I’m looking for a competitive afternoon of football.”
2009 Duquesne Football
game times are Eastern and subject to change
Date Opponent Time
Sept. 5 BUCKNELL 6:00
Sept. 12 at Nicholls State 2:00
Sept. 19 at Monmouth* TBA
Sept. 26 at Dayton 1:00
Oct. 3 ROBERT MORRIS (HC)* 1:00
Oct. 10 at Albany* 1:00
Oct. 17 CENTRAL CONN. STATE* 12:00
Oct. 24 at Saint Francis, Pa.* 7:00
Oct. 31 WAGNER* 12:00
Nov. 14 at Sacred Heart* TBA
Nov. 21 BRYANT 12:00
* - Denotes Northeast Conference games
HC - Homecoming vs. Robert Morris
Home games are played at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field on the Duquesne campus
For tickets call 412-232-DUKE (3853)