Head-to-head: Navy vs. Duke

Navy returns home to face the Duke Blue Devils after dominating Notre Dame at the new Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey. In their finest game of the season Navy defeated Notre Dame 35-17 to improve its record to 5-2. Duke was overwhelmed by Virginia Tech 44-7 in dropping their sixth straight since their season opening win over Elon. These two last met in 2008 with Duke beating Navy 41-31.

Navy rushing offense
Duke rushing defense
Navy enters the game ranked ninth in the nation in rushing yards. Navy ran for 367 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry against Notre Dame. The Irish were unable to stop the fullback. B back Alexander Teich nearly doubled his rushing yards for the year as he ran wild. Teich rushed for 210 yards on 26 carries. His career long run of 54 yards on the first series got the Mids out of the shadow of their own end zone. Ricky Dobbs did a masterful job directing the offense and missed only a few reads during the game. Dobbs scored three touchdowns and tied Chris McCoy as Navy's career leader in touchdowns with 43. Exciting slot back Gee Gee Greene averaged 7.3 yards a carry while running for 330 yards and two touchdowns against the Fighting Irish Greene looked like the second coming of Billy Sims as he stiff armed Carlo Calabrese, tight roped the sideline, and dove past Harrison Smith to reach the ball over the pylon to score just before the end of the first half. The offensive line dominated the Irish front line at the point of attack. Center Brady DeMell, guards Josh Cabral and John Dowd created gaps you could drive a truck through as ND was unable to get off the Mids blocks. The perimeter blocking by the wide receivers was outstanding. Sophomore Brandon Turner doesn't often appear on the stat sheet but the 6-4, 208 pound receiver does a terrific job blocking Virginia Tech scored on eight of their first nine possessions against Duke last Saturday. The Blue Devils are ranked 107th in the nation in run defense allowing over 203 yards a game. After two decent defensive games Duke allowed 491 yards in total offense against the Hokies. Duke's line and linebackers have struggled tackling all year. They are allowing over 38 points per game. Duke plays a 3-4 defense. They lost their top five players from last years' team and haven't been able to replace them. Duke's defensive front has had a hard time getting off their blocks. The Blue Devils scheme doesn't suit their personnel as they are undersized to be playing two gap. The Blue Devils aren't as nearly athletic or talented as they were last year. Outside linebacker Abraham Kromah had 12 tackles against Virginia Tech. Kromah leads Duke with 70 tackles and is their most consistent defender. Safety Matt Daniels is a good tackler and a good player who is forced to make too many tackles. Daniels has 54 tackles this year. Duke has played Navy, Army and Georgia Tech the last few years and has experience defending the option although they do have a new defensive coordinator in Marion Hobby.  
Navy passing offense
Duke passing defense
Ricky Dobbs completed both of his pass attempts for 71 yards and a touchdown against the Irish. For the season Ricky has completed 41 of 80 passes for 728 yards and five touchdowns against four interceptions. Against Notre Dame Navy dominated on the ground and rarely needed to pass against the Irish. Dobbs showed great pocket presence as he held the ball and drew ND's front line towards him on the 31-yard touchdown screen pass to Alexander Teich. Teich made a terrific catch on the high throw and his leaping spin into the end zone will remain as one of the highlights from this series for years to come. Dobbs other pass was 40 yard completion to Greg Jones on third and six from midfield to open the second half. Ricky threw the ball over the wrong shoulder but Jones made a terrific adjustment catching the ball. Ivan Jasper used a wide receiver option pass as. Greg Jones throw to Aaron Santiago drew a pass interference penalty. Duke's pass defense has struggled all year allowing over 239 yards a game. The Blue Devil defense has struggled in all facets of the game. Against Virginia Tech they allowed 332 passing yards. Safety Matt Daniels in the best player in defensive backfield. Daniels has one interception this year. Duke generates virtually no pressure on the passer so this unit has been picked apart. Converted cornerback Lee Butler, who intercepted a pass against Alabama , plays the other safety spot. When Duke played Army's option attack they allowed two touchdown passes, one on a wheel route.  
Duke rushing offense
Navy rushing defense
Duke averages only 117 rushing yards a game but they do have talent with their two leading backs averaging over five yards a carry. David Cutcliff's team prefer to pass the ball and with their sieve like defense they usually have to play catch up. Sophomore Desmond Scott has been impressive and is a running back with explosive breakaway speed which he showed against Wake Forest with a 63-yard touchdown run. Scott has rushed for 350 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry while scoring two touchdowns. Freshman Josh Snead plays behind Scott but also has impressed when he has the ball. Snead is fast and can make people miss. Snead's rushed for 220 and has averaged five yards per carry for the season while scoring a touchdown. The Blue Devils have a solid offensive line. Center Bryan Morgan and left tackle Kyle Hill are the best players on the line. Brandon Connette plays quarterback when Duke uses it's "Wildcat" package. Connette is very fast and has rushed for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns. Duke's Sean Renfree is a classic drop back passer who isn't very mobile. Navy ranks 67th in the nation against the run. The Mids allowed 43 yards rushing the first series but only 63 yards the rest of the game. The fourth down goal line stop on the opening drive was the result of the high/low tag team of Tyler Simmons and Jared Marks. Inside linebacker Tyler Simmons led the Midshipmen with ten tackles. Nose tackle Chase Burge was extremely active and had six tackles. Unlike past games the Irish where unable to impose their size advantage over the Mids up front to run the ball consistently. Notre Dame only averaged 3.5 per rushing attempt.  
Duke passing offense
Navy passing defense
Duke's passing offense is averaging 254 yards per game but has struggled the last few games. The Blue Devils rank 36th in the country in passing offense. Sophomore quarterback Sean Renfree after a hot start has struggled since the loss to Army. Renfree has completed 54.7% of his passes for 1,737 yards with ten touchdowns while throwing 15 interceptions. Navy is glad to see that Duke's star quarterback Thaddeus Lewis graduated. Lewis seemed to have his best games against the Mids. Duke uses mostly three wide receivers. Conner Vernon leads the ACC in receptions with 43 catches for 625 yards and three touchdowns. Donovan Varner, who led the ACC in receiving last year, hasn't skipped a beat as he's posted 37catches for 454 yards and a touchdown. Austin Kelly is more of a possession receiver and he's recorded 31 catches and scored twice. Duke's offensive line does a solid job protecting Renfree. On the year they've allowed only 13 sacks dispite throwing the ball an average of 42 times a game. Navy struggled against similar passing teams like Louisiana Tech, Wake Forest and the first half against SMU. I expect Navy to play the way they did the second half against SMU and how they defended ND by rushing four and dropping into coverage. Army used a similar type scheme against Renfree in beating Duke and he has struggled since by forcing the ball into coverage. Navy ranks 15th in the nation in pass yards yielding 174 yards a game. ND quarterback Dayne Crist completed 19 of 31 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown passes against two interceptions. Early in the game the quality of Navy's coverage showed as Crist had to scramble three times the first two series. Jabaree Tuani and Billy Yarborough did a good job creating pressure so the Mids could drop into coverage and not be forced to blitz. Tuani and Yarborough teamed up on a sack on fourth down in the third quarter that ended all Irish fans hopes for a comeback. The Mids rank only 97th in the country in sacks but do a solid job of creating pressure. Kwesi Mitchell had a terrific game in coverage. Mitchell had two tackles, broke up a pass in the end zone and his interception on ND's first drive of the second made it clear this was a Navy day. Mitchell showed a terrific closing burst on the ball he intercepted. Wyatt Middleton had another great game against ND with seven tackles and a pass defensed. Kevin Edwards has done a good job in coverage all season. De'Von Richardson, playing in place of the injured Emmett Merchant, had a break out game with five tackles and an interception.  
Special Teams
The Blue Devils have terrific speed in Scott, Snead and Juwan Thompson returning kick offs. Lee Butler is a good punt returner who's averaging 8.3 per return. Duke's Snyderwine is having a tremendous season hitting 11 of 12 field goal attempts. Snyderwine was second team All-ACC last year. Over the last two season's Snyderwine has connected on 28 of 31 field goal attempts. Punter Alex King averages 42.1 yards per punt. Duke's coverage teams are not much better than the defense in tackling. They've already allowed a kickoff return touchdown. Duke has also allowed a punt return for a touchdown and are giving up a stunning 21.1 yards per punt return. Navy's coverage teams had their best game of the season against Notre Dame. Kyle Delahooke had a good game as he averaged 39 yards on his three punts and placed two inside the 20 allowing no return yardage. Delahooke's 44-yard punt that was downed at the three yard line pinned ND deep and led to Greene's touchdown run. Jon Teague hit all five extra points and didn't have to attempt a field goal with Joe Buckley out. Darius Staten the 5-6, 190 pound freshman slot back was used on kickoff returns. Staten, who was an effective kick returner at NAPS last year, returned three kickoffs for 46 yards. Punt returner Gary Myers did a nice job fielding a bouncing punt that probably would have rolled an additional 20 yards. Myers has averaged 6.3 yards a return.  
David Cutcliffe is best known for being coaching mentor to both Manning brothers. He's brought his wide open passing game to Duke. Duke's new defensive coordinators, Marion Hobby and Jim Knowles, have struggled. The Blue devils seem to lack the size to play their two gap defensive scheme. Offensive coordinator Ivan Jasper used the heavy formation with great success. Jasper used double teams to create mismatches inside as the Irish over pursued the pitch back to create some huge running lanes. Buddy Green's defense followed the SMU template of rushing four and taking away ND's quick strike capability. Crist's longest pass completion of the day was 21 yards. Ken Niumatalolo is now 2-1 against Notre Dame. The staff did a nice job improving the kickoff coverage . A lot was made of ND's receivers being injured but Navy was missing six starters from the opener (Murray, Schupp, Malloy, Bothel, Merchant and Buckley). Navy's ability to adapt and overcome is a tribute to Ken Niumatalolo's and this staff's success recruiting and developing players.  
Navy's confidence is sky high after its stunning dominating performance over Notre Dame. They are playing their best football of the season. Navy has won four of their last five against Duke. Duke has played well against Navy. Three of the last four games have been exciting shootouts decided in the fourth quarter.  

PREDICTION: Navy, 42-17. Duke's defense has been unable to stop anyone this year. Navy is playing its best football. Renfree has struggled against teams that drop and play coverage taking away his passing lanes. Since Army used that scheme to beat Duke, Renfree has throw just three touchdown passes while being picked off 11 times. Navy will run the ball all day and Buddy Green's coverages will give Renfree fits.

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