Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Mountaineers hungry for a win as Dukes come to town for 2023 home opener

MORGANTOWN — If West Virginia’s series against Penn State was old, its series against Duquesne is downright ancient. While the Mountaineers and Nittany Lions had not played since 192 prior to last week’s season opener, a 38-15 PSU victory, West Virginia has not played Duquense since 1935.

That will change when the Dukes (1-0) come to Morgantown to play WVU (0-1) on Saturday night inside Milan Puskar Stadium (6 p.m., ESPN+).

“Duquesne is a proud program, it’s a group that we respect,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said Monday. “They’ve got good players and they’re local. If you look at their roster, most of their players are within a  three-hour radius so they’ll be hungry to play here at Mountaineer Field and we’ll get their best shot.” 

WVU is 23-0 all-time against FCS competition, but the Mountaineers are being careful to not take Duquense lightly on Saturday. Not because Duquesne is an FCS powerhouse, the Dukes went 4-7 last season, but because WVU knows it needs this win.

“We’re hungry to get a win,” Brown said. “We’re an 0-1 football team until we get a win and we need a win. We’ve got an important three-game homestretch that starts here with Duquesne on Saturday night.

“The objective is to win, that’s the first objective. We’ve got to get to 1-1 and get it even.”

Duquesne began its season last week with a 49-7 win over Division-II Edbinboro. Quarterback Darius Perrantes completed seven passes for 135 and two touchdowns and running back Taj Butts ran 10 times for 108 yards.

“Offensively, the quarterback threw the deep ball really well,” Brown said. “They’ve got two running backs that are capable.”

Defensively, the Dukes racked up six sacks, picked off three passes and scored a defensive touchdown.

“They give you about every front look you can draw up and then they pressure about 60% of the time,” Brown said. “They’re going to heat it up and they’re going to come in here and not hold a whole lot back.”

This Duquesne team is no stranger to playing in larger venues. In the last two years, the Dukes have played at TCU, Ohio, Florida State and Hawaii. They defeated Ohio 28-26 in 2021 for the program’s first, and only, win over and FBS team.

“They’ve got 13 division-I transfers that have played in these venues and played in these types of games before, so they’re not going to be intimidated at all coming in here,” Brown said.

For as well as Duquesne played last week, the expectation will be for WVU to have no trouble against a lower-division team. All eyes will be on the Mountaineers and how they rebound from last week’s loss to the Nittany Lions.

“I feel like learning from losses builds a team’s character,” defensive lineman Mike Lockhart said. “We’re down right now, but what can we do to get back to where we want to be? Can I know that, after this loss, we’ll still be going 100% in practice, still executing as if we’re going against a top team even though we aren’t? That’s what it comes down to, knowing you’re still in it with each other.”
This is the first of three straight home games for the Mountaineers, who will host rival Pitt next week and Texas Tech the following Saturday.

“They say you make your biggest jump between the first and second weeks, so I think we’re going to make a big jump this week,” receiver Devin Carter said. “We’re not satisfied, but we feel like we can get things going.”

Carter caught six passes for 90 yards in his Mountaineer debut last week, both team-highs. Carter stood out for WVU along with running back CJ Donaldson who, in his first game since a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 1 last year, ran 18 times for 81 yards and a touchdown.

“I think that’s probably his best football game thus far just overall,” offensive coordinator Chad Scott said of Donaldson. “He was physical running the football, never got tackled by the first defender and was very physical in pass protection.”

 Should the game get out of hand early, Carter, Donaldson and the first-team offense will not see much action against the Dukes.

“We need him for the whole season so we need to be smart with how we play him to not wear him out and keep him fresh,” Scott said.

Expected to see playing time Saturday are backup quarterback Nicco Marchiol, true freshmen receivers Rodney Gallagher and Traylon Ray and freshmen running backs Jahiem White and DJ Oliver.

Cornerback Montre Miller, a transfer from Kent State, will be out against the Dukes and could miss multiple weeks, Brown announced on his radio show Thursday evening.