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Duke vs. Army: What to Watch For

Credit:Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

When:  Saturday, October 8, 2016.  3:30 PM.

Where:  Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, North Carolina

Television: Fox Sports South, ACC Network

Line:  Duke -4

Last Time:  Duke 44, Army 3.  The Blue Devils moved to 5-1 last season after a dominant defensive performance in West Point.  Army was held without a single passing yard in the first half and only had 168 yards of offense for the entire game.  Duke continued their stretch of defeating triple option teams with the win, holding the Knights to just 2.9 rushing yards per attempt and just 3 of 14 on third down.  Jela Duncan was the player of the game on offense.  In his third game back after suffering a pectoral injury before the season began Duncan had 78 yards on just 8 carries and 2 touchdowns, including a 43 yard run in the second quarter.  The Blue Devils were without receiver TJ Rahming and tight end Braxton Deaver who missed the game with injuries, but Anthony Nash seized the opportunity and had a breakout game catching 5 passes for 57 yards, including some big third down conversions.

What to Watch For:

Defensive Advantage.  The biggest area of weakness for this Duke team on defense has been their coverage deep over the middle.  The Blue Devils have given up a lot of big plays already this season.  Duke’s safeties strength is in run defense, not pass coverage.  A triple option offense plays right into that strength.  Duke has won four games in a row against triple option teams (Georgia Tech 2015 & 2014, Army 2015, and Navy 2013).  Last season the Blue Devils held both Army and Georgia Tech under 3 yards per rush.  So far this season Duke is holding their opponents to just 3.4 yards per rush, which ranks in the top 25 nationally.  Duke’s newfound aggressiveness on the defensive line combined with the athleticism at linebacker and safety gives the Blue Devils an advantage against the triple option.  The best way to stop the triple option is to get stops on first down.  Expect big games from Joe Giles-Harris, Ben Humphreys, and Deondre Singleton.

Hurricane Matthew.  The latest forecasts are projecting that Durham may not feel the full impact of Hurricane Matthew to the extent that was originally expected.  It appears the storm will not move inland at this time, but we all know how weather forecasts go, its best to just look out the window if you want to know what’s happening.  At this time all football games in the area are expected to be played as scheduled.  Even if the storm doesn’t directly move through the area, some amount of rain should be expected.  In the event that the rain is significant Duke’s game plan could be altered significantly.  Army’s triple option attack works the same rain or shine.  Duke fans are clamoring for a stronger rushing attack and if the game takes place in the middle of a downpour they will probably get their wish.  For a team that has been extremely turnover prone through the first month of the season the Blue Devils will have to be extra focused to avoid giving the ball away in the rain.  The Blue Devils should still be able to control the game if it turns into a battle on the line of scrimmage.  Army is much improved and sits at 3-1 on the season, but Duke should still be able to overwhelm them with talent.  Duke may have the services of Jela Duncan this weekend.  He returned to practice after missing last week’s game with an ankle injury, but the staff wants to see how he responds before giving him the green light.  Duncan’s presence goes a long way in Duke’s success running the ball.

Daniel Jones Response.  Last Saturday’s loss to Virginia proved to be the worst performance of Daniel Jones’ young career.  His 5 interceptions and 1 lost fumble, that was recovered for a touchdown, was too much for the young Blue Devils to overcome.  That not to say that Jones’ performance was all on him.  It has been well discussed to this point the issues surrounding the offense whether the problem is the coaching, play calling, offensive line, or Jones himself.  There is plenty of blame to go around and when you put the offense in the hands of a freshman quarterback who wasn’t named the starter until a week before the season started you have to expect mistakes to be made along the way.  You just hope the young players learn from them.  I have no doubt that Daniel Jones is going to be a very good quarterback for Duke, and from certain perspectives he already is.  While you can’t expect him to be perfect this week his response is very important.  A lot of a quarterbacks play depends on his confidence in himself.  I’m sure the coaches and teammates have full confidence in Jones and his abilities and hopefully he does too.  You don’t to completely forget a performance like last week, but you want to learn from it and move on.  A big step in Jones’ development will be seeing how well he responds and bounces back from last week.