WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) Duke coach David Cutcliffe is wary bringing his Blue Devils north to Michie Stadium. It’s understandable, even if Army has only one win.
It’s the woulda-coulda-shoulda that concerns Cutcliffe. The cumulative margin of defeat for Army (1-4) in its losses is only 16 points.
”Really could be undefeated, if you look at their tape, very easily,” Cutcliffe said of the Black Knights. ”As you watch these guys play … they’re relentless is the word I would use. So we have to prepare ourselves for that.”
At least the Blue Devils (4-1) have some experience defending the option attack Army uses. They beat then-No. 20 Georgia Tech 34-20 two weeks ago as Shaquille Powell ran for three touchdowns and DeVon Edwards returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score.
”Is it advantageous to see us do what we do against Georgia Tech? That can work both ways,” Cutcliffe said. ”We’ll have some differences in some things … but it helps our players. It wasn’t that long ago (and) they understand the challenge of what we are about to see. A little bit of cat and mouse.”
Army’s setbacks include a 17-14 loss at home to Wake Forest on a field goal as time expired and a 20-14 loss at Penn State last Saturday. Backup quarterback A.J. Schurr ran for two touchdowns against the Nittany Lions, but seven fumbles – three lost – kept Army’s triple option grounded.
”If Army doesn’t turn the ball over, they’re going to win that football game,” Cutcliffe said. ”Wake would not want to have to play them again. They were very fortunate in a lot of ways to win the game up there. Now we’ve gotta go up there.”
The Black Knights are ready.
”There’s progress being made,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. ”I can just tell more than anything by the way our guys compete, the looks on their faces, the resiliency they have when their backs are against the wall. When something doesn’t go our way, they don’t panic, they just come back and fight.”
Other things to know when Duke travels to play Army:
HOLD ON, OR ELSE
Army’s turnovers against Penn State did not allow the Black Knights to sustain drives and hurt them in the field-position game. The two drives that Army scored on were the only two drives it didn’t have a negative-yardage play or fumble.
”We ended up having to punt on a lot of those possessions,” Monken said. ”It was just disappointing to not be able to take care of the ball.”
The Duke defense dominated Georgia Tech’s run-oriented attack, holding one of the nation’s top rushing teams to 173 yards on the ground. That was the fewest for the Yellow Jackets since they had 151 in a loss to Mississippi in the 2013 Music City Bowl. Army is averaging 287.8 yards rushing per game, 10th in the nation; the Duke defense is allowing only 269.8 yards of total offense, ninth nationally.
Army linebacker Andrew King writes this week on a blog what everybody at West Point must be feeling. ”We are closing in on half way through the season and one thing is certain: we have not played our best football yet,” King writes. ”We are a few plays away from our record showing completely different results in our favor. We are a few plays away from being in the national spotlight.”
Sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw left Army’s 58-36 win two weeks ago over Eastern Michigan in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not play against Penn State. He’s back practicing and Monken expects him to be able to play against Duke. Bradshaw is Army’s leading rusher with 341 yards, averages 5.0 yards per carry and 85 per contest, and is 11-of-22 passing for three touchdowns with one interception. Against Penn State, senior QB A.J. Schurr was Army’s leading rusher with 74 yards, including a career-long 56-yard TD.
NO RED ZONE
The Blue Devils have allowed only five trips into the red zone this season, the best mark in the nation. The defense also is averaging 6.6 three-and-outs per game, fourth nationally and behind only Marshall (7.6), Clemson (7.0), and Alabama (6.8).
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in North Carolina contributed.