BDN Previews Duke’s Match up with Navy in Annapolis

Duke (1-6) travels to Navy (5-2) on Saturday to take on the Midshipmen in their Homecoming game in Annapolis. The game will be televised on CBS College Sports at 3:30 PM ET and will be called by Tom McCarthy and Randy Cross. BDN offers the following analysis of Duke’s last non-conference game of 2010.

Duke in Week 8

The Blue Devils fell last week in Blacksburg, 44-7 to Tyrod Taylor and the Virginia Tech Hokies. Taylor threw for 280 yards and 3 touchdowns, adding 47 rushing yards as the Hokies won their 6th in a row. Virginia Tech jumped out to a 27-0 halftime lead, holding the Blue Devils to under 100 yards of offense in the first half. Duke turned the ball over twice in the game (an improvement), as QBs Sean Renfree and Brandon Connette each threw an interception. The Blue Devils’ forced a fumble and held the Virginia Tech running backs to 112 yards on 33 carries. Jay Hollingsworth had his second consecutive positive effort on the ground, rushing for a 6-yard touchdown and an average of 6.5 yards per carry. Conner Vernon hauled in 6 catches, but failed to break open any big plays, totaling just 44 yards. Overall, the Duke offense managed just 10 first downs and 208 total yards in a forgettable trip to Lane Stadium.

Navy in Week 8

The Midshipmen defeated Notre Dame 35-17 in the New Meadowlands Stadium last Saturday. The Navy offense was led by senior Ricky Dobbs, who ran for 3 TDs and added another through the air, and junior Alexander Teich, who ran for 210 yardson the day. The Midshipmen totaled 367 yards on the ground and added 71 yards through their opportunistic passing game. Notre Dame managed just 3.5 yards per carry, threw for 257 yards and were slowed by two turnovers. The tone was set early in the game; the Irish were stopped on a 4th and goal from the 1 yard line on their first possession, after which Navy marched down the field with a 99-yard touchdown drive. Prior to 2007, the Midshipmen had dropped 43 straight games to Notre Dame, making Saturday’s rout all the more satisfying.

Analysis

The Blue Devils will have their hands full with the Navy option offense on Saturday. The Midshipmen rank 9th in the country in rushing, averaging 274 yards per game, while Duke’s defense ranks 107th in the country, allowing 207 yards per game on the ground. The Navy rushing attack will run the ball 50-60 times per game, with the majority of carries going to Dobbs and Teich. The backfield is deep, however, and opponents can expect a few carries to go to explosive sophomore Gee Gee Greene, who averages over 7 yards per carry, and possibly senior Vince Murray, who may return from injury this week. Dobbs has been opportunistic in the passing game, resulting in an impressive 17.8 yards per completion; his favorite targets have been senior Greg Jones and the aforementioned Greene. The effectiveness of the Navy offense is perhaps best demonstrated by the time of possession statistic, where they rank 5th in the country, holding the ball for an average of 33:40 per game. Navy’s efficiency in the option offense is further demonstrated by just 6 fumbles on the year, despite nearly 400 rushing attempts.

The Navy defense ranks 19th in the country, allowing just 18 points per game, but ranks 28th in the country, allowing nearly 330 total yards per game. With a lot of 2 deep schemes, it is a defense that primarily will bend but not break. They have forced 9 fumbles and 6 interceptions on the year, and hold opponents to 36.8% on 3rd downs. Senior rover Wyatt Middleton is the leader and captain on defense, with 44 tackles and 2 pass break ups. Senior LB Tyler Simmons leads the team with 58 tackles, followed by junior LB Aaron McCauley with 56, including 8 for a loss. Junior DE Jabaree Tuani anchors the defensive front with 43 tackles, 2 sacks, and 9.5 tackles for loss.

Keys to this game for Duke are:

  1. Field Position: the Blue Devils cannot afford to give the Navy offense a short field to work with, and therefore must avoid turnovers and cover kicks.
  2. Time of Possession: if the Blue Devils allow Navy to control the game with their offense, they will wear down the Duke defense and dominate the second half. Duke’s offense must take care of the football and consistently move the chains with a balanced attack distributed amongst their deep running back and receiving corps.
  3. Discipline: Duke must stay disciplined on defense, particularly in the secondary. They cannot allow the big plays through the air or on the ground that doomed them against Army earlier this year.

BDN Prediction

The Midshipmen are hitting their stride midseason, with an impressive win last week over Notre Dame. The Blue Devils are still struggling to put all three phases of the game together, but one gets the sense that they are inching closer each week. Could this be the week the offense puts the turnovers behind, the defense stops the option, and special teams wins the field position battle? If Duke hopes to win on Saturday, it will have to be.

Navy 30
Duke 21

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