WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) - Duke is in rarefied air after a convincing victory over Army. The task for coach David Cutcliffe is to keep it going.
Thomas Sirk threw for 197 yards and one touchdown, Jela Duncan and Parker Boehme each scored twice, and the Duke defense did the rest in a 44-3 victory over mistake-prone Army on Saturday.
The win for Duke (5-1) boosted its record to 11-1 in its last 12 road games, and the Blue Devils are 5-1 in consecutive years for the first time since 1952-53.
“We came in with a chip on our shoulder,” said Duke safety Jeremy Cash, who had four tackles and one fumble recovery. “We started something this year, and that’s the mentality of winning, expecting to win. We’ve just got to keep it rolling.”
Duke has won eight of the last 10 meetings against Army (1-5), whose triple option was victimized by three bad pitches the Blue Devils converted into scores. The Duke defense stifled the Army triple option, limiting the Black Knights to 44 yards rushing on 26 carries in the decisive first half and 113 for game on 49 tries. Army entered averaging 287.8 yards rushing per game, 5.6 per carry.
“Our defense has been consistent all year,” Cutcliffe said. “Our line of scrimmage is good. You’ve got to block us, and it’s not easy to do that.”
The Black Knights, who lost three fumbles in a 20-14 loss last week at Penn State, gave away the ball twice to Duke on consecutive possessions in the first half and trailed 27-0 at halftime, never crossing midfield. The Army blunders came in a span of just over six minutes spanning the first and second quarters, and that was enough to spell doom for the Black Knights, who were soundly beaten for the first time this season.
“As agonizing as it is to lose, there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself and sulk,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “You’ve got to move on.”
Ahmad Bradshaw, who was out with an injured ankle against the Nittany Lions, entered the game after starting quarterback A.J. Schurr was hurt on Army’s second possession. A pair of ill-advised pitches by the sophomore gave Duke terrific field position and the Blue Devils capitalized both times before halftime.
Sirk, who finished 17 of 27 passing with no turnovers and also kept Army off-balance with 53 yards rushing on 13 carries, hit tight end Erich Schneider for a 9-yard touchdown after Bradshaw’s pitch on fourth down resulted in a loss, and Boehme scored on a 3-yard run after tailback John Trainor wasn’t looking when Bradshaw pitched the ball to him - Trainor thought it was a play-action pass. Linebacker Ben Humphreys recovered that one for Duke at the Army 32.
“We were consistent and we had a lot of lost-yardage plays,” Cutcliffe said. “That’s one of the keys against that offense. Lost-yardage plays are most important - it means they’re behind schedule. They don’t want to be behind schedule. If they can get it to fourth-and-1, they’re hard to stop.”
Behind schedule too often, Army converted just three of 14 third-down attempts while the Blue Devils were nearly flawless, converting 11 of 16.
“A lot of what we do, we try to move around a little bit so the quarterback can’t get a read on who’s maybe playing the quarterback, who’s playing the fullback and who’s playing the pitchman,” Cash said. “It’s kind of a look of trickery, a dose of their own medicine.”
The Blue Devils struggled last week at home against Atlantic Coast Conference rival Boston College, failing to score a touchdown in a 9-7 victory keyed by place-kicker Ross Martin’s three field goals.
Facing the nation’s ninth-ranked defense, Army coach Jeff Monken was in a gambling mood early. The Black Knights converted a fourth-and-1 play at their own 24, but the next gamble three plays later went awry. Schurr was forced to the sidelines after getting shaken up on his seventh straight carry, and when Bradshaw relieved him the Black Knights began to sputter.
Army finally crossed midfield on the first possession of the second half but settled for Daniel Grochowski’s 22-yard field goal after driving to the 5.
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