Rafiq Douglas high steps into the end zone against Wagner.
Ten minutes remained in the first half. The Dukes were down 7-0 to a Wagner team that entered the game with a record of 0-7. Rooney Field was dead silent. Seahawks quarterback Alex Thomson dropped back and attempted to air one out to a receiver before junior linebacker Christian Kuntz tipped the pass up into the air. Kuntz came down with an interception and returned it all the way back to the Wagner 10-yard line. Rooney Field became electric.
This play by Kuntz was the one that completely changed the course of the game. Suddenly, a team that looked completely dead and unmotivated found life. The deficit may have only been seven points at the time, but the way the Dukes were playing made it seem much worse.
The offense took advantage of the phenomenal field position and their drive ended with a tough Rafiq Douglas touchdown run to tie up the game 7-7.
“You always look for that turnaround play,” Coach Jerry Schmitt said, “and you can expect it to come from [Kuntz] a lot of times because he makes those unbelievable plays.”
Let’s rewind back to the beginning of the game. Wagner received the opening kickoff and pounded the ball up the field on a drive that resulted in a touchdown pass, looking like a much more impressive team than their 0-7 record suggested. Running back Otis Wright not only torched the defense on that opening drive, but made it look easy.
Wagner was winning the war on both the offensive and defensive lines and therefore they were dominating the first few drives of the game. There is nothing like a good old-fashioned wake-up call.
After Kuntz’s interception, the Dukes’ offense exploded.
Another highlight for Duquesne was Douglas’ performance on the ground. He tallied 191 yards on 24 carries and found the endzone three times while boasting an eight-yards per carry average. Those 191 yards broke his career high of 127, which he set last week.
“He’s a special young man,” Schmitt stated. “We’ve known he’s had the work ethic and the strength and he’s doing it on the field. I’m very happy for him.”
The defense also seemed invigorated after the play by Kuntz. After the interception, the Dukes’ defense allowed only 10 points through the last three quarters.
Big plays by the offense, defense and special teams were all spurred from the Kuntz interception. What if Kuntz never made that play? What if the offense never got going? What if the defense continued to let Wagner run right through them? What if the Dukes lost to an 0-7 NEC conference opponent?
This might seem a little dramatic and though they won, Duquesne was playing uninspired football and that spectacular play by Kuntz might have saved their season. Most importantly, it kept the Red & Blue in a good position in the NEC conference.
Currently, the Dukes lead the NEC and control their own destiny in pursuit of a playoff spot. However, the team needs to remain focused, because a similar start might come back to haunt them against the NEC’s better teams.