The first conference game of the year is always a crucial one to win, and the Dukes delivered with a 27-10 win over Central Connecticut State Saturday.
Led by Dillon Buechel, the powerful offensive force of the Red & Blue was remarkable in each area of the field.
Accumulating 524 yards of total offense is a pretty impressive statistic in itself, but what is even more impressive is the number of different players who contributed to this offensive explosion.
Even without key receivers Dominique Terrell and Dave Thomas, who are both believed to be done for the year because of injuries, the Red and Blue still tallied 323 passing yards. The Buechel to Chris King connection especially on quick slant passes was really effective for the Dukes. In total King caught eight passes for 123 yards. This was King’s second consecutive 100-yard receiving performance.
King wasn’t the only receiver who got in the mix though: Reggie McKnight (6 rec, 80 yards), Wayne Capers (3 rec, 59 yards), and tight end Kevin Enright (4 rec, 43 yards) proved that Duquesne still has plenty of depth in the receiving corps.
In the ground game Klartel Claridy rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns earning him NEC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Rafiq Douglas tacked on another 83 yards rushing and a touchdown. Claridy and Douglas have combined for 515 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns in five games this season. The continued success of the rushing attack has really helped Buechel get the passing game rolling of late.
The depth of this Dukes team is staggering. That “next man up” mentality seems to be in full effect this year and it is paying off for them. Guys have continued to step up and make plays and going forward this is only going to help Duquesne throughout the long conference season.
Speaking of making plays, CCSU had a few drives that were deep into Duquesne territory that were stopped thanks to a pair of interceptions by defensive back Trenton Coles. Just another receiving weapon for the Dukes, but one that plays on the defensive side of the ball.
The Blue Devils came in with a 1-3 record, were coming off a 57-14 defeat by NHU and were projected to finish sixth out of seven teams in the conference, so this surely won’t be the toughest conference opponent Duquesne will face this year. However a win's a win and it was an impressive outing to start the NEC Conference season.
If Duquesne can have a few more performances like this one, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the NEC. The team and individual statistics that the Dukes tallied up in the box score were impressive, but the most important number is the one in the win column as Duquesne will start off with a 1-0 conference record. One win closer to their goal of winning the NEC Conference and earning a playoff berth.
*Originally published Oct. 8 for the Duquesne Duke Student Newspaper