Blue Devil Defense Shuts Down Army

 

 

 

WEST POINT, N.Y. (goduke.com-- Thomas Sirk threw for 197 yards and one touchdown, Jela Duncan scored on a 43-yard run and Parker Boehme scored twice, and the Duke defense stifled mistake-prone Army in a 44-3 victory on Saturday.

Duke (5-1), 11-1 in its last 12 road games, is 5-1 in consecutive years for the first time since 1952-53 and has won eight of the last 10 meetings against Army (1-5), whose triple option was victimized by three bad pitches the Blue Devils converted into scores.

The Blue Devils struggled last week at home against Atlantic Coast Conference rival Boston College, failing to score a touchdown in a 9-7 victory keyed by place-kicker Ross Martin's three field goals. That changed in a hurry before a sellout crowd at sunny Michie Stadium as the Duke defense held the Army option in check, limiting the Black Knights to 44 yards rushing on 26 carries in the decisive first half and 113 for game on 49 tries. Army entered averaging 287.8 yards rushing per game, 5.6 per carry.

The Black Knights, who lost three fumbles in a 20-14 loss last week at Penn State, gave away the ball twice on consecutive possessions in the first half and trailed 27-0 at halftime. The Army blunders came in a span of just over six minutes spanning the first and second quarters, and that was enough to spell doom for the Black Knights, who were soundly beaten for the first time this season.

Ahmad Bradshaw, who sat out last week's 20-14 loss at Penn State with an injured ankle, entered the game after starting quarterback A.J. Schurr was hurt. A pair of ill-advised pitches by the sophomore gave Duke terrific field position and the Blue Devils capitalized both times.

Sirk, who finished 17 of 27 with no turnovers, hit Erich Schneider for a 9-yard touchdown after Bradshaw's pitch on fourth down resulted in a loss, and Boehme scored on a 3-yard run after tailback John Trainor wasn't looking when Bradshaw pitched the ball to him. Linebacker Ben Humphreys recovered that one for Duke at the Army 32.

Martin's conversion kick gave Duke a 17-0 lead with 11:01 left in the second quarter, and the Blue Devils weren't finished. After forcing the Black Knights into a three-and-out, Duncan scored on a 43-yard run through a big hole in the middle of the Army line.

Facing the nation's ninth-ranked defense, Army coach Jeff Monken was in a gambling mood early. The Black Knights converted a fourth-and-1 play at their own 24, but the next gamble three plays later went awry. Schurr was forced to the sidelines after getting shaken up on his seventh straight carry, and when Bradshaw relieved him the Black Knights began to sputter.

Army finally crossed midfield on the first possession of the second half but settled for Daniel Grochowski's 22-yard field goal after driving to the 5.

After Martin's third field goal, the Black Knights nearly struck again but were undone by yet another ill-advised pitch. Tailback Joe Walker gained 32 yards and Bradshaw hit Kelvin White for 37 yards on the next play to give Army a first down at the Duke 2. But on third down from inside the 2, Bradshaw was hit behind the line and when he tried to pitch the ball to Walker it was deflected backward and safety Jeremy Cash recovered for Duke at the 17. The Blue Devils then drove to another touchdown -- a 1-yard run by Shaquille Powell.

The Duke defense entered the game allowing only 269.8 yards of total offense and had allowed only five trips into the red zone this season, the best mark in the nation. Army never crossed midfield in the first half, getting to its 47 right before Bradshaw's second bad pitch.