The Sacred Heart Pioneers and Duquesne Dukes meet Sunday in the week 9 FCS college football NEC Championship at Duquesne Rooney Athletic Field.
How to watch
G5 | NEC CHAMPIONSHIP | DUQUESNE vs. SACRED HEART
Sunday, April 11, 2021 • 2:00 pm ET • Pittsburgh, Pa. • Rooney Field
TELEVISION: ESPN3 with Paul Dottino, Rasheed Marshall & John Schmeelk
RADIO: WJAS-AM 1320 / iHeartRadio with Alex Panormios & Tad Maurey
– Duquesne (4-0) hosts Sacred Heart (2-1) in the first-ever NEC Championship game with a conference crown and FCS Playoff berth on the line.
– The Dukes are seeking their sixth NEC title and third FCS Playoff berth, while the Pioneers have won four championships with two FCS Playoff appearances.
– The Dukes boast the top scoring and pass defense in the NEC, limiting opponents to 13.5 points and 107.2 passing yards per game.
– Duquesne quarterback Joe Mischler has been one of the most accurate passers in the FCS this season, ranking fifth in the country in pass efficiency (164.5) and seventh in completion percentage (.689).
– The Dukes are ranked 25th in the latest STATS Perform FCS Top 25 released on Monday. This marks the second FCS national ranking in program history and first since 2018.
– The Dukes have won six in a row over the Pioneers. Jerry Schmitt is 12-3 all-time against Sacred Heart.
– Attendance at the NEC Championship game will be limited to immediate family members of both Duquesne and Sacred Heart players and coaching staff due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Duquesne is seeking its sixth NEC championship and third FCS Playoff berth with a win over Sacred Heart on Sunday. The Dukes also won NEC titles in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2018.
– It would be Duquesne’s second outright NEC championship, a feat the Dukes accomplished during the 2015 campaign. DU also earned the league’s automatic berth to the FCS Playoffs in 2015 and 2018.
– A win on Sunday would be Duquesne’s 200th victory in 28 seasons at the NCAA FCS level. The Dukes have won 16 conference championships in that span, including 11 titles as a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) in addition to their five NEC crowns. DU has played at the major college level (1902-50), as a club team (1969-78) and at the NCAA Division III level (1979-92) prior to moving to the FCS ranks for the 1993 season.
– Heading into this weekend’s games, Duquesne is one of eight undefeated teams with at least three wins and one of just five FCS teams sitting at 4-0 on the season.
– The Dukes are 27-8 in NEC action since the beginning of the 2015 campaign, including a 15-3 mark at Rooney Field. – DU has recorded 69 wins since 2011, at least 11 more victories than any other NEC team. In addition, the Dukes’ 43 conference wins in that time span are the most in the league. The closest teams to either of those figures are Sacred Heart with 58 overall wins and Bryant with 34 conference victories.
– Head coach Jerry Schmitt is in his 16th season at the helm of the Duquesne program. He became the Dukes’ all-time winningest coach in 2019 with a 30-21 victory over Saint Francis U for his 98th win as Duquesne’s head coach. Schmitt passed Greg Gattuso (1993-2004) for the most wins in program history.
– Schmitt posted his 100th win at Duquesne with the Dukes’ victory at Wagner. He became one of nine active coaches with 100 FCS wins at their current schools.
– Schmitt currently sits 16th among active FCS head coaches with 130 career wins.
– With the 35-17 win over LIU, Duquesne has recorded its first 3-0 start since the 2002 season. That year, the Dukes started 11-0 and won their fourth consecutive MAAC championship.
– Duquesne posted its third 4-0 start in NEC play since joining the conference in 2008, all coming in the last four seasons. The Dukes started 4-0 in both 2017 and ’19, as well. – Duquesne has won 13 home openers in a row following the March 7 victory over Sacred Heart.
– The Dukes were playing their first game in 470 days when they opened up the spring season against Sacred Heart.
– The 17-0 victory over Wagner marked the Dukes’ first shutout win since a 45-0 triumph over Lock Haven on Sept. 1, 2018 and Duquesne’s first shutout in an NEC contest since a 38-0 win over Wagner on Oct. 7, 2017.
– Duquesne is coming off a 2019 season in which the Dukes posted a 6-5 overall record with a 4-3 mark in NEC play.
– Sunday marks the 17th meeting between Duquesne and Sacred Heart, with Duquesne leading the all-time series 12-4.
– Duquesne has won six in a row over the Pioneers, including a 30-27 win at Rooney Field on March 7.
– The Dukes are 6-3 against Sacred Heart in Pittsburgh and 9-3 against the Pioneers in the NEC era.
LAST TIME OUT
Duquesne 20, Bryant 10 – March 28, 2021
– Billy Lucas and Garrett Owens combined for 215 rushing yards with two touchdowns while the Duquesne defense held Bryant to just three points in the final three quarters in a 20-10 Dukes victory.
– Lucas paced the Duquesne ground game with 110 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown, while Owens averaged 7.5 yards per carry with 105 yards on 14 carries with a score. The last time Duquesne had two running backs eclipse 100 yards apiece was the last time the Dukes traveled to Bryant, when Mark Allen tallied 119 yards and A.J. Hines recorded 106 yards on the ground.
– Jahan Worth paced the Dukes’ defense with eight tackles (five solo) on the day. Leandro DeBrito finished with seven solo stops, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup in his home state of Rhode Island.
– Spencer DeMedal finished with seven tackles (five solo) including a team-high 2.5 tackles for loss to go with his second interception of the season. Ryan Webb notched his first interception at Duquesne to go with a three tackles and two pass breakups in the victory.
Duquesne 30, Sacred Heart 27 – March 7, 2021
– The Dukes opened the 2021 spring season with a 30-27 victory over Sacred Heart at Rooney Field, earning their sixth consecutive win over the Pioneers.
– Both quarterback Joe Mischler and running back Garrett Owens impressed in their debuts on The Bluff, as Mischler finished with 294 yards of total offense and three touchdowns while Owens registered 172 yards from scrimmage and a score on the day.
– Mischler completed 18-of-26 passes for 231 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. He added 63 yards on the ground and a rushing score.
– Owens rushed 26 times for 105 yards while recording four receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown.
– Davie Henderson caught four passes for 67 yards and Cyrus Holder finished with three receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown catch.
– Leandro DeBrito led the Duquesne defense with nine tackles (seven solo) while Todd Hill recorded eight tackles (four solo) with a sack. Spencer DeMedal tallied six tackles (four solo) and an interception.
– Duquesne’s 434 yards of total offense were its most in a Northeast Conference game since a 47-30 win at Wagner on Nov. 2, 2018.
– Mischler’s 34-yd touchdown rush was the longest run by a Duquesne quarterback since Sean Patterson recorded a 44-yard touchdown run vs. Sacred Heart on Oct. 12, 2012.
– Mischler’s 63 rushing yards were the most by a quarterback since Tommy Stuart had 72 yards on 12 attempts against Central Connecticut on Nov. 11, 2017.
SCOUTING THE PIONEERS
– Sacred Heart is 2-1 on the season with wins over LIU (35- 7) and Merrimack (26-9). The Pioneers’ last contest was against Wagner was canceled due to positive COVID-19 results among its Tier 1 personnel.
– The Pioneers feature the nation’s leading rusher in Julius Chestnut, who is averaging 181.3 yards per game on the ground. Chestnut tallied 168 yards with four total touchdowns in the first meeting between Sacred Heart and Duquesne on March 7.
– The Pioneers lead the NEC in scoring offense (29.3 ppg) and total offense (435.0 ypg).
– Chris Outterbridge paces Sacred Heart with 24 tackles (15 solo) on the season, including three tackles for loss.
– SHU is led by ninth-year head coach Mark Nofri, who has helped the Pioneers earn at least a share of three NEC titles (2013, ’14 and ’18).
DUKES RANKED 25TH IN LATEST STATS PERFORM TOP 25
– For the second time in program history, the Duquesne Dukes have earned a spot in the STATS Perform FCS Top 25. Duquesne is tied for 25th in the latest national poll released by the organization on Monday afternoon, appearing in the top 25 for the first time since the 2018 season.
– Led by 16th-year head coach Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne last appeared in the STATS FCS Top 25 following the historic 2018 campaign, when the Dukes earned their first-ever FCS Playoff victory with a 31-10 win at Towson. Duquesne, which captured its fifth NEC crown that season, sat 21st in the final STATS FCS Poll.
HOME SWEET HOME
– Duquesne is 113-30 all-time at Rooney Field including winning streaks of 16, 14 and 10 games (twice).
– Duquesne has won 13 straight home openers. The Dukes opened the home portion of their schedule on March 7 with a win vs. Sacred Heart. DU has picked up a victory in its first home game in 21 of the last 22 seasons.
– The Dukes own nonconference home wins over Dayton (six times), Bucknell (four times), Lafayette (twice), Albany, VMI, Monmouth, Butler, Morehead State and Fordham among others over the past 17 seasons.
– DU is 45-12 in nonconference home games (28-3 under Jerry Schmitt) on Rooney Field. The Dukes are 21-1 in non-conference play at Rooney Field since the beginning of the 2008 season.
– Duquesne is 14-3 in NEC action at home over the last five years. The Dukes are a combined 6-3 at home against their two home opponents this season (Sacred Heart, LIU).
DUKES AMONG NATIONAL, CONFERENCE LEADERS
– Duquesne is near the top of many team and individual statistical categories in both the FCS level and in the conference.
– The Duquesne defense is second in the country in passing yards allowed, limiting teams to 107.2 yards per game in addition to ranking eighth in scoring defense, allowing just 13.5 points per game. The Dukes are also fifth in red zone defense (.545).
– Quarterback Joe Mischler is third in the FCS in passing efficiency (164.5) and fourth in completion percentage (.689). The Ohio transfer is also 21st in passing yards per game (215.0), completing 62-of-90 pass attempts for 860 yards with six touchdown passes.
– Running back Garrett Owens ranks 11th in the country in scoring (9.0 ppg), 12th with five rushing touchdowns and 17th in rushing yards per game (94.8 ypg) on the season. Owens has rushed 83 times for 403 yards with the five touchdowns. He has added seven receptions for 84 yards and a score.
– Wide receiver Cyrus Holder is the NEC’s leading receiver, ranking 14th in the FCS in receiving yards per game (90.0 ypg). He is 17th in the nation with four receiving touchdowns.
– Defensive back Leandro DeBrito averages 6.5 solo tackles per game, good for tops in the conference and 12th in the FCS.
DEMEDAL, LUCAS EARN NEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONORS
– Duquesne defensive back Spencer DeMedal earned Northeast Conference (NEC) Defensive Player of the Week honors while freshman running back Billy Lucas was named the NEC Co-Rookie of the Week for their performances in the Dukes’ 20-10 victory at Bryant.
– DeMedal finished with eight tackles with seven solo stops and 2.5 tackles for loss to go with an interception and a pair of pass breakups for Duquesne. He helped the Dukes’ defense keep the Bulldogs out of the end zone in the final three quarters of action.
– Lucas toted the ball 26 times for 110 yards with a touchdown in a game when Duquesne relied heavily on the run game with the rainy conditions.
Duquesne vs Sacred Heart College Football Picks, Odds, Predictions 4/11/21
The Sacred Heart Pioneers look for a win to build on their 2-1 record. Marquez McCray is completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 592 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Naseim Brantley and Rob DiNota have combined for 219 receiving yards and two touchdowns while Kenneth Womack has eight receptions. The Sacred Heart Pioneers ground game is averaging 233.3 yards per contest, and Julius Chestnut leads the way with 544 yards and seven touchdowns. Defensively, Sacred Heart is allowing 15.3 points and 265.3 yards per game. Chris Outterbridge leads the Sacred Heart Pioneers with 24 tackles, Rayshad Wallace has two sacks and Salaam Horne has one interception.
The Duquesne Dukes look for another win to build on their impressive 4-0 record. Joe Mischler is completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 860 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. Cyrus Holder and Davie Henderson have combined for 581 receiving yards and four touchdowns while Joey Isabella has 11 receptions. The Duquesne Dukes ground game is averaging 179.3 yards per contest, and Garrett Owens leads the way with 403 yards and five touchdowns. Defensively, Duquesne is allowing 13.5 points and 308 yards per game. Leandro DeBrito leads the Duquesne Dukes with 34 tackles, Todd Hill has one sack and Spencer DeMedal has two interceptions.
These teams met back in early March and the Duquesne Dukes won by three points, as the Sacred Heart Pioneers committed 11 penalties and had issues getting off the field defensively. You can argue Duquesne is a better team than it was a month ago, as the offense has gotten sharper and the defense continues to be highly impressive. The Duquesne Dukes are allowing an average of nine points in their last three games, which includes a shutout victory over Wagner. I’m just not confident Sacred Heart can play disciplined football or get off the field in key situations to win a game of this magnitude.