Armed with a new attitude, the Blue Devils strolled into Navy-Marine Corps Stadium hoping to sink Navy�s ship. In the end, the Midshipmen emerged victorious, battering the Blue Devils through the air and on the ground on their way to a 27-12 victory.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Armed with a new attitude, the Blue Devils strolled into Navy-Marine Corps Stadium hoping to sink Navy’s ship.
In the end, the Midshipmen emerged victorious, battering the Blue Devils through the air and on the ground on their way to a 27-12 victory. Quarterback Aaron Polanco threw for 129 yards and rushed for 130 more. In total, the Navy offense racked up 430 yards.
“We made too many mistakes,” said head coach Ted Roof, clearly disappointed after the game. “Navy’s not going to beat themselves. You’ve got to beat them. They’re going to make you beat them, and we made too many mistakes to do that tonight.”
Duke outplayed Navy for much of the first and second quarters, forcing three fumbles. Two costly turnovers by Navy fullback Kyle Eckel in the Duke red zone kept the Midshipmen off the scoreboard for most of the half.
The Duke offense appeared to be effective early. Quarterback Mike Schneider completed each of his first five passes and running back Cedric Dargan racked up 101 yards on just 17 first-half carries.
The Blue Devils penetrated the Navy red zone three times. Duke’s offense stalled, however, after a pair of third-and-short penalties. The Blue Devils failed to convert the first downs and attempted a field goal on each foray inside Navy’s 20-yard line. Duke settled for two Matt Brooks field goals and a 6-0 advantage.
“The defense did a hell of a job getting the ball for us,” said quarterback Chris Dapolito, who rotated series with Schneider throughout the game. “We didn’t execute offensively to capitalize and score some touchdowns. We got a few field goals, but that’s not enough.”
The Midshipmen gained momentum just before the end of the half, when wide receiver Jason Tomlinson raced past cornerback John Talley for a 58-yard score.
“With Navy’s scheme, they try to hit you with the fullback, hit you with the fullback, and then lull you to sleep and then hit you with the big play,” linebacker Giuseppe Aguanno said. “We knew they were going to do it—I guess they just caught us sleeping on the play.”
Tomlinson struck again on Navy’s second third-quarter possession, scampering 31 yards to the Duke 37 on a punt return. Four plays later, Polanco ran for a 28-yard touchdown on a critical fourth-and-one play to give Navy a 13-6 lead, its first of the game.
Duke responded with a clock-eating 12-play drive, capped by a Dapolito five-yard plunge into the endzone that pulled the Blue Devils to within one point of the Midshipmen. But Brooks’ extra point attempt spun wide.
The miss blew the wind out of Duke’s sails for good. On the ensuing drive, Navy pounded the Blue Devils’ defensive line with its famous triple-option offense, and Eckel rushed up the middle for a three-yard touchdown. With 3:06 remaining in the game, he provided a second three-yard score to put the game out of reach.
“With that kind of offense you’ve got to be exact and precise, and if you’re off by the slightest bit, they’ll hit you for four or five yards every play in the second half,” Aguanno said. “We weren’t precise with our assignments in the second half.”
Eckel rushed for 100 yards, including those two late touchdowns, atoning for his earlier fumbles. Polanco was remarkably efficient as a passer, completing 8-of-9 passes behind solid protection from his offensive line, which allowed only one sack and paved the way for 301 rushing yards.
For the Blue Devils, Dargan finished with a career-best 114 yards, despite receiving only four touches in the second half.
“I got three minor injuries, but it’s on the same leg, so if you add them all up it really affects your performance,” Dargan said, adding that he should be ready for the Connecticut game next week. “If I’m able to play to my capacity, then I want to go out there, but I felt like I couldn’t perform as well as I wanted to.”
Schneider and Dapolito combined to complete 13-of-20 passes, but no completion went for more than 15 yards. Schneider played only two offensive series the entire second half and none in the third quarter. The young offensive line allowed three sacks, limiting his efficacy.
Roof said, however, Schneider remains firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback, and the rotation was part of the game plan.
Duke now turns its eyes toward a road game against Connecticut next week, a team that won nine games last season. Before it gears up for the game, however, Duke must deal with the frustration and disappointment stemming from its loss Saturday, a game many Blue Devils felt they should have won.
“This game came down to execution,” Dargan said. “Second half, Navy executed better than we did. It’s sad for me to say that.”
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