Around the ACC: Week 6

With Duke finishing up its non-conference slate, several critical conference matchups were on tap this week in the ACC. The Blue Zone takes a look at how all 15 ACC teams performed this weekend:

Duke 44, Army 3

The Blue Devils broke out of their prolonged offensive slump and took advantage of several Army miscues to cruise to an easy victory on the road. Thomas Sirk looked comfortable all day, completing 17 of 27 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown without throwing an interception. Jela Duncan also helped Duke’s rushing attack bounce back from a forgettable performance last weekend against Boston College, exploding for a 43-yard touchdown run to highlight his two touchdown performance. Duke was an extremely efficient 11 for 16 on third down and put up points every time they reached the red zone.

Duke’s defense continued to dominate and forced seven fumbles from Army’s triple option attack. The Blue Devils recovered two of these fumbles and added an interception to give their offense short fields to work with throughout the game. The Black Knights only managed 2.3 yards per rush during the game and were outgained 458-168 by the Blue Devils. With the win, Duke improves to 5-1 heading into its bye week. Following the week off, the Blue Devils will travel to Blacksburg, Va. for key a Coastal division matchup against Virginia Tech.  Read more »

Football Player of the Week: Week 6

Football Player of the Week: Week 6

Jela Duncan 

Statline: Eight carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns; one catch for two yards

The Good: Junior running back Jela Duncan reintroduced himself as a play-maker on the team with a strong performance that included a 43-yard highlight reel run that saw him burst through the middle of the field nearly untouched on his way to the end zone. After missing last season due to academic suspension and an early portion of this season with a pectoral injury, the Charlotte, N.C. native paced the offense with 9.8 yards per carry and scored twice in the team's easy 44-3 victory. At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, Duncan's physicality as a runner appears to be the difference-maker as the running back is tough to bring down in the hole and in the open field. 

The Bad: Although the offense performed well in all phases of the game, Duncan did not add much to a passing game that still does not look exceptional. Duncan recorded only a single catch and figures to stay slotted behind senior Shaquille Powell until he can develop into a solid receiving option for quarterback Thomas Sirk. The vertical passing game is slowly coming along slowly, but Sirk averaged only 7.3 yards per attempt Saturday. With the Blue Devils continuing to rely on screen passes and short passes to their running backs, Duncan will need to step up in coming weeks against the likes of Virginia Tech and Miami.  Read more »

Thoughts on the AP Poll: Week 6

Duke dominates Army, returns to top 25

The Blue Devils pounced on the Black Knights early with a 27-0 halftime lead and never looked back in a dominating 44-3 victory Saturday. Duke's defense turned in yet another solid performance and held Army's triple-option attack to just 113 total rushing yards. Quarterback Thomas Sirk complemented the defense effort with a mistake-free outing and made big throws when needed to keep drives alive. With the victory, Duke moved to 5-1 on the season and reentered the top 25 for the first since Week 11 of last season, coming in at No. 25. The Blue Devils will head into their bye week tied with Pittsburgh atop the ACC Coastal Division with the meat of their conference schedule right around the corner. 

Utah survives in late-night battle against California 

No. 5 Utah won a battle of unbeatens late Saturday night 30-24 behind the running of Devontae Booker and a defense that forced five interceptions from highly-touted quarterback Jared Goff. The Utes struggled to capitalize on turnovers all night, but came up with big plays when needed to secure the victory. With possession of the ball and his team down six, Goff had a chance to be the hero with a potential game-winning drive. But on fourth and five from the Utah 21-yard line, the potential first-round pick's pass fell incomplete.  Read more »

Making the Grade: Duke football vs Army

Making the Grade: Duke football vs Army

The Blue Devils defeated Army in a dominating 44-3 victory Saturday afternoon at Michie Stadium. After going 3-1 in a four-game stretch at home, Duke showed no slippage on the road and displayed impressive efficiency on both ends of the field. With starting quarterback A.J. Schurr going down in the first quarter, Army lost control of the game early and was unable to organize a consistent attack against the smothering Duke defense.

Offense: B+


Duke met little resistance when throwing the ball downfield against the Army secondary and finished with 243 passing yards total. Quarterback Thomas Sirk connected on 17 of his 27 attempts with one touchdown and no interceptions and found an array of targets. Eight players recorded a reception for the Blue Devils who were led by the seldomly-used Anthony Nash, who finished with five receptions for 57  yards. Duke utilized mostly short passes to set up the running game, while occasionally taking shots downfield with Johnell Barnes and Max McCaffrey. Barnes finished with two receptions for 58 yards—including a 38-yard reception in the third quarter—and appeared to reestablish himself as a focal point in the team's offense.  Read more »

Injuries piling up quickly for Duke football

Injuries piling up quickly for Duke football

WEST POINT, N.Y.—During the preseason, the Blue Devils were dealing with an onslaught of injuries in their backfield that forced them to convert third-string quarterback Nicodem Pierre to running back.

Now, Duke's running backs are all healthy and thriving—with Jela Duncan punctuating his return from a partially torn pectoral muscle with two rushing touchdowns Saturday against Army—but the rest of the roster is far from full strength.

Although the Blue Devils impressed with a 44-3 drubbing of the Black Knights on the road, they came out of the game with more question marks on the injury front than they would have liked. In the third quarter, Duke saw key defensive cogs Kyler Brown and Deondre Singleton go down within just a few plays of each other. Defensive tackle Carlos Wray also suffered an injury in the second half, and none of those three players returned to the field later in the game.

Television reporters during the game said that Brown's injury could be an MCL sprain, but no further reports have confirmed that. After the game, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said he did not have any more specifics on the extent of the injuries to any of his defensive players, but he did note that he was most worried about Brown—a redshirt senior who totaled seven tackles for loss in the team's first five games. Read more »

Extra Point: Duke football vs Army

Extra Point: Duke football vs Army

Duke improved its record to 5-1 with a dominant victory on the road, defeating Army 44-3 with a solid defensive performance and an explosive offense that scored five touchdowns on the day. With the victory, the Blue Devils completed their non-conference slate and will head into the bye week looking to get healthy and stay atop the ACC Coastal. 

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Take risks downfield in the passing game: Thomas Sirk completed 17 of his 27 attempts for 197 yards and was in total control of Duke's offense. Six wide receivers had more than 10 yards receiving, and capitalized on Army’s weak secondary. Sirk did in fact take shots downfield Saturday highlighted by Johnell Barnes’ 38-yard catch and Max McCaffery’s 32-yard reception. 
  • Win the time of possession battle: Duke had the ball on offense for just a minute longer than Army and did a better job of keeping their defense off the field than in past weeks. With a big lead, the Blue Devils defense was fresh all game and maintained their high level of play from the opening kickoff. But injuries to defensive end Kyler Brown and safety Deondre Singleton cast a shadow on a nearly perfect day and could haunt Duke going forward.
  • Stay disciplined and dominant on defense: The Blue Devils built on their success defending the triple-option against Georgia Tech by stifling the Black Knights throughout the afternoon. Duke’s defense was truly dominant in all facets and held Army to just 168 total offensive yards. The Blue Devils also had success forcing turnovers as Army lost three fumbles and an interception 

Three key stats:

  • Thomas Sirk goes 17-of-27 through the air: Finding holes throughout the Black Knights secondary, Sirk had a field day and recorded one of his best games of the season. Although he only threw for one touchdown, the redshirt junior looked like a brand new quarterback after the Blue Devils’ offense struggled against Boston College last weekend. Sirk also continued to use his feet to his advantage and finished with 53 yards rushing on 13 carries to complement his accurate performance from the pocket. 
  • Duke defense forces four turnovers: The Blue Devils' greatest strength all season has been its defense and the unit continued to impress Saturday. Jeremy Cash and Dwayne Norman formed a dynamic duo that help shut down the Black Knights' offense and the Blue Devil defense continued to fuel the team's offense. Duke converted all four of Army's turnovers into points and used the defense's takeaways to win the field position battle all afternoon. 
  • Parker Boehme rushes for two touchdowns: Backup quarterback Parker Boehme had his named called twice within ten yards of the end zone and answered the call both times, plowing through for a pair of scores. Boehme's size adds versatility and flexibility for Duke’s offense and as ACC play picks up, the redshirt sophomore may become a solid red-zone option going forward. 

Three key plays: Read more »

Chronicle Postgame: Duke 44, Army 3

The Chronicle's Brian Pollack and Jack Dolgin recap a dominant performance by the Blue Devils in Saturday's 44-3 win at Army. Jela Duncan found the end zone twice on the ground and Dwayne Norman picked up 11 more tackles to lead the way, but Duke also lost several key defensive cogs to injury.

Duke heads into its bye week with a 5-1 record. Keep up with the Blue Zone for coverage leading up to the Blue Devils' Oct. 24 to Virginia Tech for a crucial ACC Coastal showdown.

HALFTIME: Duke 27, Army 0

WEST POINT, N.Y.—Thanks to multiple Army fumbles, stellar field position and a relentless offense, Duke made the first half of Saturday's nonconference finale a lopsided affair.

The Blue Devils lead the Black Knights 27-0 at the half at Michie Stadium. Army—which relies on its triple-threat rushing attack—attempted just one pass, which went incomplete, as Thomas Sirk and the Duke offense have been able to move the ball thanks to the emergence of a new target.

After a Ross Martin field goal put Duke ahead 3-0 on the game’s opening drive, Army fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and after recovering, started the game in the shadow of its own goalpost. It was a sign of things to come.

Duke went three-and-out on its next drive, but after a Will Monday punt pinned Army on its four yard-line, things began to fall apart for the Black Knights. Quarterback A.J. Schurr took several consecutive rushing attempts, but left the field with an injury after taking a big hit on third down. Sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw replaced Schurr under center on fourth and one and the Army pitch play went awry, setting the Blue Devils up with a short field. Read more »

Chronicle Pregame: Duke football vs. Army

The Chronicle's Ryan Hoerger and Brian Pollack preview Duke's final nonconference game of the year, a noon kickoff against Army Saturday at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y. The Blue Devils are coming off a 9-7 win against Boston College and will have their hands full with a triple-option offense for the second time this season.

Duke in the MLB: Stroman inconsistent in first postseason start

After the Texas Rangers stole Game 1 from the Toronto Blue Jays Friday, former Duke starting pitcher Marcus Stroman took the mound in Game 2 hoping to salvage a split for the home team. After surprisingly overcoming a torn ACL in spring training, Stroman returned for the month of September and went 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA.

But Stroman could not seem to get into a rhythm early in the biggest start of his career. In the first inning, two runs scored on an RBI single by Shin-Soo Choo and a fielding error by catcher Russell Martin. Stroman was able to escape the jam when first baseman Chris Colabello turned an unassisted double play to end the inning. In the second inning, Stroman walked Rougned Odor—who later came around to score on a sacrifice fly. 

Following that point, Stroman was lights out. The former Blue Devil retired the next 14 batters he faced and the Rangers offense struggled to make good contact on the ball. Stroman masterfully painted the corners of the strike zone from the third inning on and forced some Texas players to complain about calls. 

Stroman’s early struggles put the Blue Jays in an early hole that they slowly dug themselves out of behind a big second inning. But with the young pitcher performing well, the final batter he faced eventually helped the Rangers force extra innings. With a 4-3 lead, Stroman gave up a leadoff single to Delino DeShields and Stroman was taken out of the game. DeShields would eventually come around to score, helping the Rangers force extra innings. After a few innings of scoreless action, Texas would go on to push two runs across in the top of the 14th inning and came away with a 6-4 victory.  Read more »