The Army Black Knights (3-2) lost their second game on the bounce as they came out of their bye week and travelled to Durham to take on the Duke Blue Devils (3-3). It was an ugly mess of a game that was severely impacted by the remnants of Hurricane Matthew, creating conditions where no football should have really been played. Here is the report card as we see just how Army came out on the wrong end of the scoreline.
PASSING OFFENSE: D
This was just a bad day to try to pass the football. Ahmad Bradshaw was 2 of 8 for 38 yards with an interception, while Chris Carter came in to provide some spark off the bench but was only able to complete one of his three passes for 11 yards. In a game where neither team was able to pass the ball for over 50 yards, the Black Knights had the worst day through the air with that Bradshaw pick and no touchdowns scored.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C
The passing attack was a non-factor, but Army was at least able to move the ball to some degree on the ground. Andy Davidson was stunningly effective as he gained 120 yards on 16 carries and averaged 7.5 yards per attempt. Even in the awful weather, Davidson was again able to continue his streak of not being tackled for a loss as every one of his carries went for positive yards. Hus fumble at the Army 9-yard line on the Black Knights second possession though was a backbreaker. The other problem was that the rushing work behind Davidson was pretty ineffective. Duke has a very strong option defense and they keyed in on Bradshaw in particular, holding him to just 1.2 yards per carry on the day.
PASSING DEFENSE: B-
The passing defense was solid in general as Duke was only able to pass for 44 yards as a team. The problem was that both starter Daniel Jones and his backup Parker Boehme were able to throw touchdown passes and those scores were the difference in the contest. It was almost like a backyard football game when either side was trying to pass the ball as routes were impossible to run smoothly on a sodden field. Falling behind early to the two passing touchdowns, in a game that was played on the ground from that point onwards, was disappointing.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B-
The rushing defense was solid as the two primary Duke ball carriers were held to 90 yards on 24 carries. Neither Shaun Wilson or Jela Duncan could really get going as a combination of the rain and outstanding linebacker play from the Black Knights kept the backs in check. As a team Duke rushed for 2.9 yards per carry on 50 attempts, but the Blue Devils did a good job of running down the clock in the second half when the offense was trying to choke the life out of the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Just a nothing day on special teams really. The wind and rain were so bad that neither team was going to attempt a field goal at any point because they would have had no chance at completing the long snap and hold let alone actually getting a solid kick away. Similarly, anyone returning a punt was thinking fair catch (or get out of the way) from the moment the punter hit the ball. That is how of the 17 punts on the day between the two teams only two had return yardage.
It is hard to see just what Jeff Monken could have done differently to turn this game around considering is was Army vs Duke vs Hurricane Matthew. The Black Knights seemed to be well prepared and they were definitely the better team after Duke took their 13-0 lead, but Army just could not finish drives consistently enough to put pressure on Duke in the second half. Army was 2 of 13 on third down and a terrible 0 of 4 on fourth down, but the play calling cannot really be questioned too much given that the weather was a completely limiting factor. It would, however, have been nice to see Army come back and win a game that they did dominate from quarter two onward.
OVERALL GRADE: C
This was just a frustrating game. In conditions like those on Saturday, it is a total toss-up on who will win if the teams are relatively evenly matched. Playing that game 10 times would result in a 5-5 or 6-4 split and it just so happened that in the game that was played last weekend it was Duke that got the early advantage and rode it home. Army will now look for a bounce back game, in much better conditions, this coming Saturday against Lafayette.