Coming off a frustrating fourth-quarter loss to Rutgers, the football team wanted a change of pace.
It will get just that Saturday when it hosts Army, which uses a wishbone offense and rarely passes the football.
The Army offense, which returns nine of 11 starters from last year's squad, runs the option attack out of the three-back wishbone formation. The Duke defense has not faced such an offense since its trip to Vanderbilt early last season. In that game, a 42-37 loss, the Blue Devils were unable to contain the option and surrendered 335 rushing yards.
"Last year, our one wishbone fiasco with Vanderbilt didn't turn out very well," head coach Barry Wilson said. "We've got to come up with a good plan and we've got to execute it and if we get a lead, we've got to put them away."
The Cadets relied solely upon their rushing attack in their 30-0 victory over Colgate last week. Army carried the ball 73 times for 496 yards. Quarterback Rick Roper's two pass attempts resulted in a sack and an incompletion.
Fullback Akili King was the primary weapon in Army's ground assault last week. King, a converted halfback, gained 235 yards on 28 carries against Colgate. After one game, he leads the nation in rushing yardage.
In their victory over Colgate, nine Cadets carried the ball. Halfbacks Chad Davis and Kevin Vaughn combined to gain 128 rushing yards. Roper, while hesitant to throw the football, ran for 77 yards himself.
To prevent the Cadets' army of ball-carriers from running away with the game on Saturday, the Blue Devils plan to use an aggressive defensive front.
"The thing we did poorly against Vanderbilt is that we didn't attack the line of scrimmage," linebacker Scott Berdan said. "We let them take it to us. Everybody was concentrating on which gap to fill but we were trying to do it on our side of the line.
"Against Army, we're going to attack more and try to make things happen on their side of the line."
The Blue Devils realize that they must focus their defense on stopping the run. However, they hope that they can force the Cadets out of their ball-control offense and test Roper's passing ability.
"It is very important that we maintain control of the football," Wilson said. "And when we get it, we've got to score points. We need to make them throw the football."
The Duke defense, which played poorly against Rutgers, could get a boost Saturday from the return of standout lineman Scott Youmans from a knee injury. If he returns, he won't play the entire game, but should be able to help neutralize Army's ground attack.
The Duke pass rush has been virtually non-existent in their first two games, so the Blue Devils will welcome any defensive line help they can find. Duke's pass-rushing woes could translate into trouble stopping the run on Saturday.
While the defense continued to struggle last week, Duke's offense thrived. It is hoping to continue to play well against Army.
Quarterback Spence Fischer directed the offensive explosion against Rutgers, completing 28 of his 45 passes for 333 yards. Fischer will be the starter again this week. That means that Joe Pickens, who started at quarterback against Florida State, will be on the sideline Saturday.
"I hope he [Fischer] can pick up where he left off," Wilson said. "Spence earned this start and the acknowledged number one position after his performance last week."
Fischer's most frequent target last week was wide receiver Brad Breedlove, who caught seven passes for 113 yards. Eight other Blue Devils caught passes against Rutgers.
David Lowman's 106-yard effort last week was the first rushing success that the Blue Devils have had this season. Against the Cadets, Lowman will split the tailback duties with T.C. White, who is returning from a one-game suspension, and Tijan Redmon.
Several Duke players sustained injuries on the artificial turf at Giants Stadium last Saturday. Berdan (bruised neck), Breedlove (hip and lower back), and tight ends Dan Clark (concussion) and Bill Khayat (bruised ribs) are among those nursing their wounds. They all expect to be ready to play Saturday.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle which Duke must overcome this week is itself. The Blue Devils' blown lead in the fourth quarter last week was reminiscent of similar situations in several games last year.
This has led to speculation that, despite the presence of several fifth-year seniors, the Duke team lacks maturity and is unable to handle success.
"I think our kids will rebound," Wilson said. "It's up to our kids to step forward and prove that they want to grow up and that winning is important enough that we get the job done at the time when we have to get it done."
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