Inside The Press Box: Duquesne

  • JERREY ROBERTSMcGuirk Stadium, home of the UMass Minutemen. JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 8/22/2018 4:49:10 PM

In my quest to keep you well informed about UMass, I think it’s important that we look also at the opponent. So each week, I’m going to try to bring you some insight from writers around the country about whichever team the Minutemen are playing that week.

This week, I reached out to an old colleague who now covers FCS football for a national website. Chase Kiddy is a Lead Writer for HERO Sports with a focus on the Colonial Athletic Association, Patriot League, Ivy League and the Northeast Conference.

Here are the five questions I posed to Chase via email earlier this week. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: I'm sure most UMass fans are going to overlook Duquesne because of its FCS status, so why could the Dukes be trickier for the Minutemen than most people expect?

A: It's not the sexiest of answers, but I think the scariest thing about Duquesne right now is that it doesn't have a lot of obvious weaknesses. The Dukes should continue to be a very gifted team offensively, led by running back A.J. Hines and a really solid offensive line. Defensively, they're good enough to go win a conference championship, even if it's not the obvious strength of the team. Duquesne doesn't turn over the ball all that often, either — their +8 turnover margin ranked 18th in FCS last season.

So I think the answer here is that UMass is going to have to go out and beat Duquesne. That could be a bit different than many other FBS-FCS matchups, where a standard FCS team might just beat itself.

Q: A.J. Hines might be the most underrated running back in FCS because he's largely gone unnoticed after back-to-back 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown seasons in his first two years. What makes him such a dangerous weapon for Duquesne?

A: His versatility for one thing. Hines is a smart runner, and with 24 career touchdowns through two years, he's got a good nose for the end zone, too. He's a smaller guy, but he can catch passes and follow his blockers awfully well. He's a very natural running back, and I think FBS schools will probably watch him over the next couple years and think to themselves, ‘Wow, how'd this kid get by us?’

He's gotten a lot of preseason All-America love this year, and another 1,000-yard season will probably jump him onto some Day 3 draft boards, if he isn't on there already.

Q: I know the Dukes brought in a transfer quarterback from Florida Atlantic in Daniel Parr and return their backup from last season, so who is going to be starting at quarterback for the Duquesne in the opener?

A: It's still an undecided competition between Parr and Brett Brumbaugh, as far as I'm aware. However, I can tell you that Duquesne is clearly not afraid to install a transfer quarterback right out of the gate. Tommy Stuart transferred east from Boise State after the 2016 season and started right away for the Dukes. Clearly, that was the right move, since he threw for 2,400 yards and his team came within seconds of the playoffs.

If Parr is the right guy — and judging by his play time at FAU and his mobility in the pocket, he very well could be —coach Jerry Schmitt definitely won't be afraid to make that call.

Q: Shifting to the Dukes' defense, what can we expect out of that unit, which will surely be tested against a UMass offense that returns most of the weaposn from a unit that ended last season firing on all cylinders?

A: Frankly, I expect UMass to find a lot of success on offense here. Duquesne does have a couple of nice DBs in Jonathant Istache and Abner Roberts. Brett Zanotto is a nice pressure linebacker, too. The Dukes have some nice individual pieces, but the unit as a whole is nothing to be terribly afraid of. Given how good the Minuteman offense looked at the end of the 2017, I'd be surprised if UMass didn't score at least 30 here.

Q: Duquese upsets UMass if...

A: UMass gets sloppy on defense and allows the game to turn into a shootout. Between Hines and Nehari Crawford (1,026 receiving yards & 15 TD's in 2017), Duquesne has the horses to keep up with UMass. I expect Duquesne to try to run the ball a lot and keep the ball away from Andre Ford. UMass needs to be firm up front and not allow a new starting quarterback to get comfortable. If it does that, it should be fine.

Note: As many of you know, I came to the UMass after two years covering James Madison, which is also called the Dukes. Chase is a JMU alum, so I threw in a humorous question at the end for him, and he gave such an insightful answer, I decided to include it.

Q: Is Dukes the best nickname ever for a college sports team?

A: Ha. Well, in truth, I have always enjoyed uniquely specific mascots that present a very specific sort of figure — a Minuteman, a Mountaineer, a Trojan, a Duke. There are only two Division I schools who field athletic teams named the Dukes, and that would be Duquesne and my alma mater, James Madison. JMU's "Dukes" aren't royalty at all — the teams are named after an early 20th century school president, Samuel Duke. That means that Duquesne, which named its school after a French-Canadian Marquis, is the only Division I school that offers an actual royal Duke as a mascot. I find this kind of stuff pretty interesting.

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