Report Card: Army vs. Duke

The Army Black Knights used a well-designed defensive scheme to take away the Duke Blue Devils short passing game and forced five turnovers to win handily, 35-21. It was the first road victory for the Black Knights over an ACC team since 1971 and improved their record to 3-1.




The most telling stat of the day was that at the end of three quarters Army had more passing yards than Duke. Trent Steelman completed 4 of 6 passes for 85 yards and his first two touchdowns of the year. Steelman first touchdown pass was a perfectly executed wheel route, off of play action, that Maples caught and ran in for a 34 yard touchdown. Steelman had both Davyd Brooks open deep and Maples on that route. For Maples it was the first touchdown of his Army career Austin Barr (3 catches for 51 yards 1 TD) had the best game of his career. Barr's 31-yard touchdown catch was also the first touchdown of his Army career. Steelman missed a chance for another potential big play but that is nitpicking. The passing game did exactly what it is designed to do. Take a few shots down the field when the opposition defense is selling out against the run. With two touchdown passes it doesn't get much better than that for Army.
Overall the Army rushing stats were not as impressive as we've seen. However that is misleading because the average per carry was hurt by fourth quarter stats when the game was out of Duke's reach. The total yards rushing were influenced by the short field due to turnovers. When the game was in doubt Army was very efficient running the ball Trent Steelman led all rushers with 69 yards on 18 carries and 1 touchdown. Steelman had trouble with the mesh twice but recovered both fumbles. For the second game in a row the B backs struggled to find running room as Duke focused on stopping the fullback. Jared Hassin still doesn't look 100% as he rushed six times for 23 yards. Jacob Bohn bulled into line with limited results as he rushed for 14 yards on five carries. Duke's defense was open to the outside running game and Army repeatedly took advantage. Malcolm Brown rushed for 48 yards on nine carries. Brian Cobbs scored the first two touchdowns of his career and had a third called back on a penalty. With Pat Mealy out two plebes contributed. Jon Crucitti once again blocked well and this week showed more of a burst has he ran nine times for 44 yards. Talented freshman Raymond Maples was back in the mix and had his first significant playing time of the year. Maples finished with 40 yards rushing on nine carries. Once again the perimeter blocking by the slot backs and wide receivers was superb.
Army employed it Cover 1 scheme to great effect as it took away the Duke short passing game. The Blue Devils didn't adjust until the fourth quarter as they attempted to impose their will and Army made them pay. On the third play of the game Stephen Anderson intercepted a slant pass and returned it 36 yards to set up an easy Army touchdown. Anderson later knocked down a pass. Two series later Donnie Dixon (3 tackles, 1 Interception) returned an interception twenty yards that set up another easy Army touchdown. Dixon was later burned for a 58 yard touchdown. He did nothing wrong from a technique standpoint, he just was matched up against a much faster player. Duke didn't try to throw over the top of Army's defense until the game was out of hand. Antuan Aaron (4 tackles) had another strong game. Richard King intercepted a pass in the end zone and did a very good job in coverage. The stat sheet shows that Army's front recorded only one sack but the truth is they harassed Renfree and outplayed Duke's fine offensive line. Renfree was out of rhythm for most of the game. Marcus Hilton (6 tackles, 1 sack) had one of the best games of his career. Josh McNary recovered a Renfree fumble after the Black Knights forced him out of the pocket. Jarrett Mackey had a terrific hustle play when he forced Vernon to fumble after he was struggling for extra yards. Donovan Travis, who's playing only on passing downs due to sore shoulder, recovered the fumble. Duke made almost all of their passing yards late. There were a number of mistakes by backups but the starters deserve their A+ for this effort.
Duke had success on their only touchdown drive of the first half when they ran for 59 yards against mostly Army's nickel defense. The rest of the game they averaged only 3 yards a carry on their 17 attempts. Stephen Anderson led Army with 8 tackles. Josh McNary and Marcus Hilton had six tackles. Army benefited from Duke's stubborn determination to try their short passing game which they took away.
Punter Jonathan Bulls had a generally solid day averaging 38.3 yards on his six punts. He placed one inside the 20 and just missed the coffin corner in first half. Alex Carlton had his only attempt blocked. While there was pressure up the middle, Carlton's kick seemed too low to have a chance. Josh Jackson showed good speed on a punt and a kickoff return. I have no idea why he chose to fair catch a punt at his own 5-yard-line. Army did a terrific job on punt coverage. Lee Butler is a dangerous punt returner who entered the game averaging 15.2 per return. Army held him to 10 yards on three returns. Kickoff coverage was solid but, truth be told, the Black Knights were lucky Snead ran into his own blocker on that 32 yard return or he'd still be running. Stop the presses! Matt Campbell had a kickoff reach the end zone and recorded a touch back. Anthony Stephens recovered on side kick.
Tremendous defensive game plan. Army employed a cover 1 most of the game and took away the inside slants that are the featured part of Duke's game plan. The defensive line created pressure against Renfree and took him out of his rhythm until the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Army defense either forced a punt or turnover in three downs or less on seven of the Blue Devils first eight possessions. This was a team that entered the game ranked 19th in the country in passing offense. Blocking on perimeter is vastly improved from last year. Army improvement in team speed was noticeable against Duke. They were playing an ACC team and more than matched up against them athletically
Third consecutive road win for Army in Ellerson era. That's the first time that's happened since 1967. Simply dominated an ACC team on their homecoming day. Special teams mistakes are the only thing that kept this from being an A+.

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