It may have been a windy, wet and mostly miserable day, but no complaints from Duke’s Blue Devils.
The Devils, with a tough stretch of the schedule looming, badly needed a victory and picked it up Saturday against Army, 13-6.
The Blue Devils (3-3) built a 13-0 lead in the first half, swarming to the ball on defense to stymie Army’s triple-option offense for the most part. Fullback Andy Davidson broke loose for a 45-yard touchdown run late in the first half and had a 39-yard run early in the fourth quarter, but Duke had most of the defensive answers.
Quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Parker Boehme each had touchdown passes for Duke, and while the Blue Devils allowed a few sacks and fumbles, and had a punt blocked, they kept big mistakes to a minimum on a day when Hurricane Matthew struck the Triangle.
The Black Knights (3-2) were averaging 374 yards a game rushing, the best in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but had 165 yards Saturday. Davidson, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore, did his part, but the Blue Devils kept quarterbacks Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Carter and running back Jordan Asbury in check.
Army was driving with less than seven minutes left when Duke forced an errant pitch by Bradshaw, recovering at the Duke 31. A Deondre Singleton interception ended the Knights’ last chance at Wallace Wade Stadium.
How Duke won
It wasn’t like a year ago, when Duke easily won 44-3 at West Point. It wasn’t the kind of day for another 40-point game.
This was about gritty defensive football, and the Blue Devils were well-disciplined against the Army triple option. The Black Knights did not have a first down until less than six minutes left in the first half.
Davidson had the long TD run for Army, but the fullback also had a key fumble, on the Black Knights’ second possession of the game. Duke safety Corbin McCarthy forced it, Singleton recovered and the Blue Devils quickly converted as Boehme connected with tight end Erich Schneider for a 3-yard score.
A fourth-down stop in the second period, Singleton with the hit, at the Army 32 set up Duke’s second score — Jones’ 22-yard pass to Aaron Young in the right corner of the end zone. Duke botched the point-after but led 13-0.
Duke linebacker Ben Humphreys had a career day, but stopping the option was an 11-man job, and the Devils did it well.
What it means
One look at Duke’s schedule and you get a sense of what a victory meant. The Blue Devils go to Louisville on Friday, then to Georgia Tech. After that, it’s Virginia Tech and North Carolina — at home — before finishing on the road against Pittsburgh and Miami.
At 3-3, the Blue Devils have a chance to qualify for another bowl, although there’s much work to be done. A loss to Army, after a 34-20 loss to Virginia, could have been a season wrecker.
8 Army, in its first four games, had 25, 23, 33 and 21 first downs. Duke held the Black Knights to eight — three in the first half — and stopped Army four times on fourth-down tries in the game, chopping into Army’s time of possession.