Saturday's game was anything but an offensive spectacle, but the Blue Devil defense shut down Army's triple-option attack to allow Duke to get back to .500 for the season with a 13-6 win. Although Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc on the game, the Blue Devils showed their toughness despite losing offensive starters Jela Duncan and Austin Davis during the contest.
Pass: Not many teams can pass in conditions like those present for Saturday's contest—see North Carolina's 34-3 loss to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame's 10-3 loss to N.C. State for further evidence—with heavy rain and wind altering every aspect of the passing game. Redshirt freshman Daniel Jones finished the game 7-of-15 for 41 yards and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Young and backup Parker Boehme had a three-yard jump pass for Duke's other score. Perhaps more importantly, neither Blue Devil signal-caller threw any interceptions to give Army life. Although Duke struggled to protect Jones without Davis, allowing five sacks, its passing game did its job by not turning the ball over in a defensive battle.
Rush: Without Davis and Duncan for much of the contest, the Blue Devils did not put Saturday's game away early with a dominant ground attack. But they were still able to get enough contributions from Jones and Shaun Wilson on the ground to seal the win late in the game. Duke finished with 145 yards on 50 carries, with Jones rushing for 55 yards on 21 attempts. Duncan had 40 yards on 10 carries early in the game, and Wilson added 50 yards on 14 attempts, coming up with tough runs late in the game to run out the clock.
X’s and O’s: As was the case when the Blue Devils played Virginia, they struggled to pass protect without Duncan in at running back. With Davis out also, offensive coordinator Zac Roper's job became even tougher. Nonetheless, Roper and head coach David Cutcliffe ran Jones more throughout the game to limit turnovers and dialed up the right plays in the red zone to generate two touchdowns. If Duke can figure out how to protect Jones, the redshirt freshman has shown he can create big plays downfield, which will be critical as the Blue Devils' schedule toughens the rest of the way.
Pass: Army is not a passing offense because of its triple-option style, but even when the Black Knights did drop back to pass, they found nothing open downfield against a swarming Duke defense. Army quarterbacks Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Carter combined to go 3-of-11 with a late interception, allowing the Blue Devils to embrace the tough weather conditions and key on the Black Knights' ground game.
Rush: Normally, giving up 165 yards on 43 attempts might not seem like a big win, but for Duke against the nation's top rushing attack, it was just that. Army entered the game averaging 374.8 yards per game, but the Blue Devils shut down Bradshaw and company. Black Knight star Andy Davidson broke off a 45-yard touchdown run and had a few other big plays, but Duke's defensive front rose to the challenge when it mattered most and stopped Army on three 4th-and-1 runs.
X’s and O’s: Blue Devil linebacker Ben Humphreys called defensive coordinator Jim Knowles the king of the triple option, and Knowles showed why again Saturday. Even without strike safety Jeremy Cash—who is now in the NFL—Knowles' unit controlled the line of scrimmage and showed it has the discipline to shut down a triple-option offense. Duke will have another chance to do so Oct. 29 at Georgia Tech.
Special Teams: B
Although the Blue Devil offense limited backbreaking errors for the most part, Duke's special teams unit struggled to find consistency once again. Redshirt freshman punter Austin Parker had three punts downed inside the 20-yard line but also had a punt blocked and bobbled another snap, which could have resulted in a second blocked punt for Army. After the Blue Devils' second touchdown, holder Danny Start was unable to get the ball down for freshman kicker A.J. Reed, resulting in a failed point-after attempt. Although Duke held on to win, regardless of the conditions, similar errors for the Blue Devil special teams unit could be the difference between winning and losing in a tough ACC Coastal Division.
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