by Mike Potter
Duke might have needed an easy home game after its season-opening loss to Division I (Championship Subdivision) superpower Richmond on Saturday, but if the Blue Devils are going to get things turned around they'll have to do it in the first of back-to-back road games.
The Blue Devils will travel to Army this week in a winnable football game that should be close no matter which team prevails.
Duke is almost certainly going to need seven wins to reach second-year coach David Cutcliffe's goal of a bowl appearance, and will have to get the engine started in September to have a realistic chance to do that.
The Cadets are coming off a 27-14 win at Eastern Michigan, and looking for their first 2-0 start since 1996. They have a new coach this season former Cal Poly coach Rich Ellerson, whose team incidentally demolished N.C. Central 49-3 last season.
Ellerson's team runs a triple-option offense and a "desert swarm" defense, which has given the Devils plenty to think about.
"Make your corrections early in the season, and never, never, never lose sight of what you want to do," Cutcliffe said about recovering from the opening loss. "There's therapy in hard work.
"The key is to go back and look at yourself and be honest about where you are as a team. I said this team has capabilities to be a bowl team, and it should, no ifs, ands or buts about it. We've got to go and win seven ball games. Right now I'm totally convinced my team is going to go play the best it can play on Saturday at Army."
Cornerback Leon Wright (pictured) said Duke needs to take a big step up after stumbling in the opener.
"Army is very disciplined, as anyone could imagine," Wright said. "They're going to fight to the end and won't be taken lightly. We have to execute like we're playing the No. 1 team in the nation."
Added Duke center Bryan Morgan, "(The Cadets) play hard. We just have to match it - no, not match it. We have to play a little harder. Technique has to be better. Technique, quick feet, and just knowing what you're doing."
Army has signed a contract to play in the Emerald Bowl if the Cadets are bowl-eligible following the big game with Navy on Dec. 12.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, a 1969 West Point graduate who later coached the Cadets' basketball team before assuming the reins at Duke, will be inducted into the Academy's Sports Hall of Fame on Friday night.
Duke (0-1) vs. Army (1-0)
[Noon Saturday, Michie Stadium, West Point, N.Y.]
Blue Devils lead series 10-9-1; Duke won last meeting 20-17 (2006 in Durham)
Audio: WDNC-620, GoDuke.com, Sirius 127
Video: CBS College Sports
Key stats ...
Duke: Team scoring 16.0 to opponents' 24.0. Rushing 19.0 to 125.0. Passing 350.0 to 157.0. Individual leaders - (rush) Re'quan Boyette 9-15 0TD, (pass) Thaddeus Lewis 34-55-0-350 2 TD, (receive) Johnny Williams 7-115 1 TD, (tackle) Vincent Rey 14.
Army: Team scoring 27.0 to 14.0. Rushing 300.0 to 40.0. Passing 8.0 to 183.0. Individual leaders - (rush) Patrick Mealy 5-109, 1 TD, (pass) Trent Steelman 2-5-0-8 0 TD, (receive) Damion Hunter 2-8 0 TD, (tackle) Josh McNary 9 inc. 2 ½ sacks.
Best message board tidbit on the game:
From "Nivram" on DevilsIllustrated.com in response to a Mississippi booster, "I'm going to paraphrase one of our favorite chants here. Go to hell ( ...), go to hell. We are in great shape with Coach Cut, in all aspects of the game. I'm sure this season will play out to prove that Saturday was a fluke and Duke continues great improvement in football."
Duke will win if ... Thaddeus Lewis has another big passing day and the offensive front can open some holes for Re'quan Boyette. And time of possession will be a huge key. Army will want the ball over 30 minutes with a triple-option offense that rarely passed in its season opener. If the Blue Devils can force a fumble or two, it would be a big help.
Army will win if ... The Cadets can come up with close to 300 rushing yards and simply control the football. If the Duke defense gets mesmerized by a mind-numbing din of cadet chants between well-spaced four-yard runs, the visitors are in trouble. And the Cadets can't give up the big play in which Duke's speed is a factor.
Can the French Blue Devils stand up against Army Strong?
Any game against one of the military academies, with teams populated by players who generally were not offered Division I (FBS) letters of intent elsewhere, is a winnable one for a respectable Duke team. And this is a respectable Duke team. But then again, football games are the easiest parts of the cadets' lives. Duke will have better athletes, but will have to try to match the Black Knights' intensity or the plane ride home won't be happy.
What people are saying about the game:
Sal Interdonato, Army beat writer for the Middletown (N.Y.) Times-Herald Record writes: "This one will be decided in the fourth quarter. An Army defensive touchdown will factor in. Army middle linebacker Stephen Anderson and free safety Donovan Travis could be set up for a big day if Army's defense executes. Army freshman quarterback Trent Steelman will be more comfortable in his second career start and will score his first college TD."
Players to watch ...
Duke: #9 QB Thaddeus Lewis, #21 RB Re'quan Boyette, #3 DT Vince Oghobaase, # 31 MLB Vincent Rey.
Army: #5 RB Patrick Mealy, #44 DL Josh McNary, #50 LB Stephen Anderson, #82 WR Ali Villanueva.
Injury report ...
Duke: RB Kyle Griswould (leg) OUT, CB Randez James (hand) OUT.
Army: None reported.
Vegas line: Army by 1. That's right. One.
Score prediction: Duke 28, Army 24.