The Briefing Room: Duke at Army

The Black Knights are off to a fast start to the 2009 season, with last Saturday's 27-14 win over Eastern Michigan providing proof that Rich Ellerson's team is intent on turning the program's recent failures around. The competition gets a little stiffer this week, however, as the Cadets return to West Point to tangle with the Duke Blue Devils, who fell to Richmond in their opener last Saturday.

Here are four key personnel matchups to watch for during Saturday's game.

 

Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis vs. Army FS Donovan Travis

 

Both of these players excelled during their respective week one games, and will be involved in a battle of wits during Saturday's game. Lost amidst Duke's loss to FCS opponent Richmond last week was the play of Lewis, who is coming off of a breakout 2008 season in which he was named Second Team All-ACC. Duke actually outgained Richmond despite losing to the Spiders, with Lewis looking in midseason form already by going 34 of 55 for 350 yards and two touchdowns. He has shown the ability to pick secondaries apart in the past, including two 300+ yard passing days last season against Navy and North Carolina State. Lewis is a dropback passer who likes to throw deep, and will present a challenge to Black Knight safety Donovan Travis, who'll be called upon to play "center field" for Army. Fortunately for Army fans, Travis has shown an ability to read quarterbacks' eyes in the past and to not get baited or sucked in on underneath routes or play fakes. He had a huge interception against Eastern Michigan last week, but will need to be at his best on Saturday to prevent Lewis and the Duke receivers from hitting big plays downfield.

 

Duke Wide Receiver Johnny Williams vs. Army CB Mario Hill

 

Williams proved to be Lewis' go-to target a week ago, snagging seven catches for 115 yards, including a tremendous 54-yard touchdown reception. At 5-foot-10 he's not the biggest receiver, but he has good speed and a great on-field repertoire with his quarterback. The job of defending the speedy Williams will likely fall on Black Knight cornerback Mario Hill, who made the start at the field cornerback position in last Saturday's win and finished the game with five tackles and a forced fumble. Hill, however, struggled at times in coverage, allowing two big plays by EMU receiver Jacory Stone. The 6-foot, 175-pound Hill will have to do a better job in man coverage and of locating the ball against Williams on Saturday if Army is to slow down the talented wide receiver.

 

Army SBs Jameson Carter and Patrick Mealy vs. Duke LB Vincent Rey

 

Army's offense compiled 300 rushing yards (6.1 yards per carry) against Eastern Michigan last week, due largely to the play of slotbacks Patrick Mealy and Jameson Carter, who combined for 161 yards and two scores on just 10 carries. Carter and Mealy both proved to be particularly explosive once they reached the outside, with Mealy running for a career-long 75 yards after taking an option pitch from freshman quarterback Trent Steelman. Duke's defense is faster than Eastern Michigan's though, and well schooled in defending the option, having had to play Navy each of the past five seasons. The Blue Devils have no shortage of talented linebackers, with 2008 Second Team All-ACC linebacker Vincent Rey proving to be the best. Rey paced Duke with 14 tackles last week, and will be called upon to track down the speedy Army slotbacks this week. If he can stop Carter or Mealy from getting to the edge, it could be a long afternoon for the Army offense.

 

Army C Zach Peterson vs. Duke DT Vince Oghobaase

 

Peterson received his first career start against Eastern Michigan last week, and looked up and down during it. While he showed the athleticism to get to the second level of EMU's defense and cut the backside linebacker, he was inconsistent in his ability to execute his cut blocking assignments. This week the competition level gets turned up, as Peterson will have to deal with getting to the second level of Duke's defense while having to worry about one of the best defensive linemen in the ACC. Oghobaase, who came to Duke three years ago as one of the school's most highly sought after recruits, is a behemoth 6-foot-6, 300-lb defender who has plenty of experience against the triple option. If Army is to establish the fullback – and the play action pass – then Peterson is going to have to get by the talented tackle on option plays while also standing firm against him on pass plays.


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