|Dukes at a glance
Game 1 - Duquesne
It might not be the season opening game that UB fans were dreaming of but here come the Duquesne Dukes. When life gives you lemons (a hole in your schedule) you have to make lemonade (find an affordable FCS team for a home game).
The teams kick off on August 30th at 3:30 pm. The mid afternoon kickoff will give UB fans a chance to enjoy a concert by up-and-coming country singers Easton Corbin while they take in the tailgating and pregame environment that Danny White has been trying to nurture at UB.
The idea behind Duquesne's mascot goes back to 1911 when a man wearing a top hat became the unofficial symbol of the school's athletic teams. In 2003 the Athletic department upped the ante with a seven foot tall big-headed Duke mascot. They have since modified if a few times until it has become the creepy Ben Affleck look alike we see today.
The Dukes spend more than a decade in the MAAC while it was a football conference. Throughout their membership in the MAAC history the Dukes were a dominant team. They were nationally ranked every year from 2001 to 2007 including being labelled the NCAA Division I FCS Mid-Major National Champions in 2003.
All told in their 14 years of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference membership they won their conference title eleven times.
After the MAAC folded up their football operations in 2007 the Dukes found a home in the NEC. During six years of NEC play the Dukes have won the conference twice, including last season.
Like many FCS teams the Dukes have a bowl history which goes back to the days when there was little if any college football division structure.
The Dukes had some success before NCAA college football's alignment into divisions. Duquesne won the 1934 Festival of Palms Bowl and 1937 Orange Bowl. In that Bowl the Dukes were led by Elmer Layden, one of the Four Horseman of Notre Dame, and beat Miami 33-7.
History Against UB:
Their first and only meeting came in 1991, when both schools were Division three entities. The Bulls won the game 49-0 behind 266 rushing yards by Alan Bell. His single-game yardage record from that day still stands.
Despite meeting just one time the history of the Bulls and the Dukes have a lot in common.
Both schools started football in the 1890's. The Dukes picked up the pigskin in 1893 and the Bulls a year later in 1894. They both had good programs which were cut before their time with the Bulls having to cut football from 1970-1977 and Duquesne going dark from 1950 to 1969.
UB and the Dukes first brought football back as a club sport and slowly worked their way back to the Division 1-AA level in 1993. A year later Duquesne joined the MAAC while UB stayed a football independent until the MAC invited them several years later.
Coach: Jerry Schmitt
The Pittsburgh native has long been a figure in western Pennsylvania football. He played his college ball for Westminster College in the late 1970's and early 80's. The Offensive lineman became an assistant high school football coach at West Allegheny High School during the middle of the 1980's coaching the offensive and defensive lines of the varsity team and being the head coach of the junior varsity team.
Aside from two years as an assistant with the Dukes during the 80's Schmitt returned to Pennsylvania high school ball for the rest of the decade. Eventually he returned to Duquesne and was part of the staff which made the transition to Division One and as an offensive coordinator helped shape the Dukes into a dominant MAAC team.
Westminster College, his Alma Mater, gave Schmitt his first chance to be a head coach and Schmitt left the Dukes in 2000. After coaching the Titans to a respectable 28-21 record over five seasons he returned to Duquesne as head coach.
He won the MAAC each of the three seasons he was a head coach in the conference and has two NEC titles since the conference change in 2007.
Players to Watch For:
Dillon Buechel (QB, Sophomore): As a freshman he set school records for passes attempted (373) and completed (217) and threw for 2,569 yards - the sixth-highest total in school history. He ended the year as a second team All-NEC pick, after leading the conference in passing yards and passing yards per game (233.5).
Chris Johnson (S, Senior): Johnson is a second-year transfer from the University of Florida where he played in all 26 games, including a pair of bowl games (Sugar & Gator), during his in two years in Gainesville. Last season, his first with the Dukes, saw him rack up 49 tackles, while breaking up five passes and forcing 2 fumbles in nine games
Christian Kuntz (LB, Junior): ,Jr.(6-2,210): After last season Kuntz was named third team All-American and first team All NEC. Kuntz led the team in tackles, tackles for a loss, and sacks. He is a question mark for this year after suffering an off season knee injury, and while he may return to play in 2014, it's not likely he will be on the field for the Buffalo game.
Often times when playing FCS teams you have to hunt for a reason to take them seriously, but this is not the case with the Dukes.There are reasons to think that this game will be uncomfortably close for an FCS contest.
The Dukes stack up as well against Buffalo as an NEC team can. They have a returning Quarterback who can throw the ball well and likes to distribute the work load. UB has lost three of their starting defensive backs and the driving forces behind their pass rush (Khalil Mack, Colby Way).
UB has lost their first two options at receiver and the Dukes have a former Florida Gator prowling around their defensive backfield waiting for a mistake. There is also the potential of UB facing a formidable pass rusher if Kuntz is healthy by late August.
The Dukes have a large effective defensive nose tackle who may be able to clog up the running lanes in the middle of the lines while Buffalo is trying to find a replacement for Branden Oliver. Last year against Stony Brook, when Oliver was out, the Buffalo running game was terrible. This year Buffalo opens the season without BO and relying on the same line up that could not get it done against the Seawolves.
Finally there is the coaching matchup. While Jeff Quinn finally found success last season for the first time in his short head coaching career, on the other sideline the Dukes have a coach who has won multiple conference titles over a long tenure at one school. After a lull in quality when entering the NEC the DUkes have had their own building leading up to last years tie for the NEC conference.
I can honestly see a dozen ways this turns into the 2013 Stony Brook game but I think the coaching staff is acutely aware that they lost every single first team all conference player on the roster. The Bulls who are suiting up this week have been hearing about the talent fall off for months and should be fired up and focused for the win.
Look for UB to double up the Dukes: Buffalo 34 - Duquesne 17