Duke (0-1) vs Army (1-0)
West Point, N.Y. - Michie Stadium
TV: CBS College Sports Network / Kick-off: 12:02 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: N/A Nickname: Black Knights Colors: Black and Gold Head Coach: Rich Ellerson (1st season) Career Record at Army: 1-0
Army is looking to start a season 2-0 for the first time since 1996 after winning their season opener against Eastern Michigan last week. It was the first time the team had won its first game since that season and is the first time the program has enjoyed being over .500 in 148 games. On the other side, Duke had high expectations heading into the opener with Richmond only to see the Spiders control the game and beat Duke in a home opener for the second time in four years.
This will be the first time since 1997 that the two programs have met. Prior to that last meeting, a 20-17 Duke victory, the Blue Devils and Black Knights met once a year for the previous five seasons with Duke winning four of those five contests.
Overall the Blue Devils hold a 10-9-1 series advantage including a 5-3-1 lead at Michie Stadium. Against the ACC, the Black Knights have lost six consecutive contests.
What To Watch For On Offense:
The running attack. Against Eastern Michigan the Black Knights ran around and then through their opponents to the tune of 300 yards. When hitting that mark, the program owns a 21-7 overall record since 1996. The running game served notice early on that it would be a force against EMU. After rushing for 49 of the 57 yards on the opening drive, the Black Knights found the end zone four times on the ground.
The Black Knights use a number of players to achieve these kinds of numbers lead by 5'8, 203 pound junior Patrick Mealy who accumulated 109 yards on just five carries. Those numbers are a bit misleading as 75 of those yards were accumulated on one breakaway run. Oddly enough that career long run did not result in a score. His first touchdown of the season was a six yard scamper in the first quarter. Starting fullback Kingsley Ehie (5'10, 220) made his first career start against the Eagles and acquitted himself well with a career best 12 carries for 75 yards and two scores.
A reserve slot back of interest is Jameson Carter who is making the unusual transition from receiver to running back. Against EMU Carter had his number called five times - responding for 52 yards including a 31 yard break to the end zone for his first career touchdown. Fellow second teamer - fullback CeDarius Williams also made his backfield debut against the Eagles, rushing 10 times for 43 yards.
Army will start true freshman Trent Steelman under center. Preferring to run more than throw, Steelman has quick feet and doesn't shy away from contact (much like a running back). With the option offense in full effect, the Duke defensive backfield and linebackers will need to cover laterally instead of worrying about Steelman going down field on them. Against EMU the 6', 185lbs new comer attempted just five passes, completing two of them for eight yards. Of those two completions, one was for nine yards, while the other completion resulted in a one yard loss. That's somewhat a surprise considering the Knights have 6-foot-10 (no, that's not a typo) Ali Villanueva lining up as a wide receiver this season.
What To Watch For On Defense:
Running a "Double-Eagle Flex" defense that drops one of five linemen off the line of scrimmage, putting him on either side - or in the middle - while the remaining linemen run stunts and the LB's either blitz or drop back into coverage, the Black Knights are able to create all manner of havoc along the opposition's offensive line and in their blocking schemes. The formation resulted in Army consistently getting into EMU's backfield in the season opener, as the team logged six sacks and nine tackles for loss.
Chief among those Knights putting pressure on the Eagles' signal caller was senior Victor Ugenyi (6'3, 260). A converted defensive end, Ugenyi posted a career high 2.5 sacks last week good for a -31 yard net to the Eagle offense. Junior DE Josh McNary also joined the pass rush another 2.5 times, while leading the team in regular tackles on the day with nine. Such pressure could spell trouble for a Blue Devil rushing attack and blocking unit that accounted for just 19 yards against Richmond. It certainly stifled the Eagle attack, holding Eastern Michigan to just 40 yards rushing on 29 attempts.
The Eagles didn't really test the Knights' defensive backfield, and when they did it wasn't with the same level of talent that Duke will bring with senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. If the Blue Devils can keep Lewis upright, he'll have a chance to allow his talented receivers to test the Army secondary which is led by senior cornerback Mario Hill. With little experience at the safety position, look for Duke to attack the remaining 3/4s of the defensive backfield with a combination of speed and size.
Head coach David Cutcliffe refuses to believe that his team is just another Duke squad destined to underachieve and eventually fail. In his weekly press conference Cutcliffe reaffirmed his belief that Duke is simple "a good football team" and he still has expectations of reaching the post season. The glass half full approach is that, with a second I-AA team on the schedule, Duke needs to win as many games as they needed to before last weekend in order to make a bowl eligibility, and they have the same amount of chances to do it. In a sense, there's a built in "do-over" in Durham. But, it's also already been used and there is no margin for error going forward. The clear worry for Cutcliffe is that the offensive line will turn in another ineffective performance, and Duke won't be able to sustain drives (i.e. rest the defense that will be pushed and pulled from side to side with the Army running attack). In the end, however, Duke's passing attack is different from anything the Black Knights saw a week ago. Will it be enough to offset a less than effective performance from the running and blocking components? That's the big question.
Predicted Final Score:
Duke - 23
Army - 12