It’s Homecoming at Duke, and the Blue Devils will try to end a 2-game losing streak with an important win against a physical Army team on Saturday at 3PM in Wallace Wade Stadium. Tickets are still available through theDuke Ticket Office and active military personnel can receive two free tickets. The game will also be available on espn3.com. Blue Devil Nation encourages all Duke fans to cheer on the Blue Devils in what should be an exciting rematch of week 2 in 2009. Please note that due to the expected high temperatures at kickoff in Durham, Duke has put the Heat Management Plan into effect.
Duke in Week 3
The Blue Devils suffered a lopsided defeat at the hands of the #1 ranked, defending national champions Alabama Crimson Tide. The Duke defense struggled for the third straight week, giving up a total of 62 points and 626 yards of total offense. The Crimson Tide put the game away early, racing to a 28-0 lead, led by the potent offensive combination of Heisman winner RB Mark Ingram (154 yards, 2 TDs), powerful RB Trent Richardson (189 all-purpose yards, 2 TDs), playmaking WR Julio Jones (106 yards, 1 TD), and undefeated QB Greg McElroy (258 yards, 3 TDs). The Duke offense struggled out of the gate, as QB Sean Renfree struggled to find open receivers for big plays to answer the Crimson Tide offense. WR Conner Vernon faced double teams nearly all day, which essentially took him out of the game. There were several bright spots, most notably in the backfield, where the tandem of freshman RB Josh Snead (186 all-purpose yards) and sophomore RB Desmond Scott (128 all-purpose yards) were able to break through the high-pressure Alabama defense.
Army in Week 3
The Black Knights are coming off a dominating performance at West Point last Saturday, shutting out North Texas, 24-0. It was Army’s first shut out since 2005 and came after giving up 31 points in a loss to Hawaii in week 2. In the second year under head coach Rich Ellerson, the Black Knights’ triple option offense and double-eagle flex defense are hitting full stride. Army rushed for 292 yards against North Texas and controlled the clock to pull out the victory. QB Trent Steelman leads the offense, and rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown, along with 75 yards from RB Brian Cobbs. The Black Knights’ defense forced two turnovers in the game, an interception and a fumble recovery, holding the Mean Green to 201 yards of total offense.
Despite the defense’s struggles, the Blue Devils enter this game as 6 point favorites. In 2009, Sean Renfree led the Blue Devils to a comeback 35-19 win at West Point. This bodes well for the Duke offense, as Renfree has been praised for his preparation all season, and will now be facing a defense he has seen before for the first time in his young career. For the first time in the past three seasons, Duke appears to have a balanced offensive attack, and it will be essential for the Blue Devils to build on the recent success of their young running backs. Big games for Scott and Snead will take some pressure off the Blue Devil receivers (who have been struggling with drops of late) and most importantly, will keep the Army triple-option off the field. To win this game, Duke must control the game with its offense, and the Blue Devils now have the weapons to do it. An early Duke lead would put the Black Knights offense in an uncomfortable hole; conversely, falling behind early will allow Army to control the game on the ground.
Army will test the Blue Devils physically on both offense and defense. The Black Knights will try to force turnovers with their unique defensive scheme, led by standout DE Josh McNary. The Blue Devils offensive line must neutralize McNary’s pass-rushing ability in order for the offense to be successful. The undersized senior leads the team with 5 sacks and 16 tackles through the first 3 games, after finishing 2009 with 12.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. The Blue Devils must control the line of scrimmage on offense in order to be successful against the Army defense.
The biggest challenge is whether the Blue Devils will be able to stop or even slow the Army triple-option. It’s no secret that Duke is struggling both physically and mentally on the defensive side of the ball, and the Army option is designed to wear a defense down. The defense has done a fair job of slowing the run off the edge, but has provided little resistance to runs up the middle. Opponents like Army will seek to exploit that weakness; the Black Knights enter the game 7th in the country in rushing at 283 yards per game. With 7 players who have already received more than 10 carries in 2010, Army is loaded with the weapons to wear down a banged-up Blue Devil defense. The burden will be on the linebackers to close the holes and finish tackles; if not, it will be another long and disappointing day for the Duke defense.
Both offenses are likely to have success in imposing their will on the opposing defense, and it will likely be another back-and-forth game for the Blue Devils. Special teams and red zone efficiency could be a big factor in this game, and the Blue Devils will need to continue to make plays in these areas. After a disappointing effort against Alabama, we will learn a lot about the resolve of this Duke team against a physical Army team. If Duke can match the physical play at the line of scrimmage, build an early lead, and come up with a big defensive stand, they might just be able to get back to .500 heading into College Park.