Army looks to con­tinue strong start at Duke

Black Knights look to con­tinue strong start against Blue Devils

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Joedy Mccreary

DURHAM, N.C. >> If Duke can’t keep its grip on the ball, the Blue Devils might lose con­trol of their sea­son, too.

A sud­denly turnover-prone Duke team plays host to an im­proved Army to­day. The Blue Devils (2-3) rank last in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence and 123rd na­tion­ally in turnover mar­gin, with 17 give­aways to 10 take­aways.

The Black Knights (3-1) are fifth in the Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion in that stat cat­e­gory and had no turnovers in their first three games. Only two teams have turned it over less of­ten.

“Army is a com­plete foot­ball team,” Duke coach David Cut­cliffe said.

And with Hur­ri­cane Matthew churn­ing up the East Coast, and threat­en­ing to dump rain on Wallace Wade Sta­dium, ball se­cu­rity will be at even more of a pre­mium.

“If it’s windy and rainy, we’ve both got to kick the ball and throw the ball,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “The ball will ex­change hands and we’ve got to take care of it. I’m sure they’re go­ing to em­pha­size the same thing.”

That’s a cer­tainty — es­pe­cially after how the Blue Devils’ last game went.

Duke had six turnovers in a 3420 loss to Vir­ginia , in­clud­ing a fum­ble that was re­cov­ered for the game­seal­ing touch­down and five in­ter­cep­tions — with four of them com­ing in a 20-minute stretch of the first half. The Blue Devils haven’t had fewer than three turnovers in any home game.

They’ll have to over­come those self-in­flicted wounds if they’re go­ing to turn the sea­son around and reach their fifth straight bowl game.

Yet Cut­cliffe in­sists the team has not — and will not — frac­ture.

“They know who the pro­gram is. They know what the pro­gram’s about. That will never fal­ter,” Cut­cliffe said. “That’s not go­ing to change. We’ve said it for years that you don’t ever run from it, you run to it — mean­ing chal­lenges, prob­lems, is­sues . ... Wher­ever you stum­ble, that’s where your hid­den trea­sure is buried.

You just look for it.”

Some things to know about the Army-Duke game:

ARMY’S GROUND GAME

The Black Knights once again lead the na­tion in rush­ing — as they did in 2011 and ‘12 — av­er­ag­ing nearly 375 yards with their trade­mark triple-op­tion of­fen­sive sys­tem. Their three starters in the back­field are sopho­mores and RB Andy Davidson leads the way with a 103-yard av­er­age and six touch­downs. “Run­ning the ball is one thing,”

Monken said, “but the bot­tom line is you have to score points.”

GOOD KNIGHT ON D

Not to be out­done, Army’s de­fense ranks 10th na­tion­ally, al­low­ing 264 yards, and is ninth against the run, giv­ing up 87.5 yards per game.

“Ev­ery­body wants to talk about their of­fense, but their de­fense causes you a lot of prob­lems with their con­fig­u­ra­tion,” Cut­cliffe said.

DUKE’S PRES­SURE

The Blue Devils join a

pair of top 10 teams — No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Hous­ton — with at least three sacks in ev­ery game this sea­son. That streak might be in jeop­ardy this week be­cause the run-first Black Knights have only thrown 29 passes all year.

FIN­ISH STRONG

Army was un­scored upon in the fourth quar­ters of its first three games, be­fore blow­ing a 20-6 lead in the fourth quar­ter against Buf­falo two weeks ago.

The Blue Devils have been outscored 27-23 in their fourth quar­ters.

MIKE GROLL — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Army head coach Jeff Monken yells to of­fi­cials dur­ing a game against Tu­lane last sea­son.

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