DURHAM, N.C. — As the weather got worse, Corbin McCarthy’s smile got bigger. It was going to be a good day for defense, especially Duke’s defense.
“It was backyard football,” said McCarthy, Duke’s senior safety. “Before I even put pads on today, I was a giddy 12-year-old kid. There was barely anyone in the stands, but it didn’t matter. It was one of the purest forms of football I’ve played in a long time, and it felt absolutely great.”
Daniel Jones and Parker Boehme each threw a touchdown pass as Duke beat Army 13-6 on Saturday.
The Blue Devils (3-3) jumped out to a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter, and their defense stifled Army’s rushing attack to hold on for the victory in pouring rain. Duke caused three turnovers, including a forced fumble by McCarthy to set up his team’s first touchdown.
Both teams struggled on offense as Hurricane Matthew made its way through North Carolina. The storm produced stiff wind and driving rain for hours leading up to the game and throughout the contest, making every punt, pass and kick difficult.
The teams combined for 93 passing yards, averaged 3.4 yards per play and had as many punts (17) as first downs.
“Probably the MVP of the day was Matthew, meaning the storm,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “He was the baddest dude on the field for both teams. But we got a win when it was not as perfect as you would like.”
Andy Davidson rushed for 120 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown run late in the first half, for the Black Knights (3-2).
Army entered the game averaging an FBS-leading 374 rushing yards per game but ran for a season-low 165 yards on 43 attempts against Duke.
Boehme threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Erich Schneider after Davidson lost a fumble at the Army 9 on the Black Knights’ second possession. Jones tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Young for Duke’s other score.
Army: The Black Knights outplayed Duke after falling behind 13-0, but they could not sustain drives. Army converted two of 13 third-down plays and failed all four times on fourth down, including three times on fourth-and-1 runs. “Credit Duke,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “They played very physical. We couldn’t block them. We couldn’t sustain a block. It was disappointing.”
Duke: The Blue Devils gutted out a victory, but they still need three more wins to qualify for a fifth consecutive bowl game. That will be a difficult task against Duke’s six remaining opponents, each of which is bigger, faster and more talented than Army.
FOURTH AND STRONG
After stopping Army four times on fourth down, Duke has held its opponents to no fourth-down conversions on eight attempts this season. The Black Knights were 9 of 11 converting on fourth down in their first four games.
Duke’s fourth-down stops were huge. One set up Duke’s second touchdown, and another stopped the Black Knights from converting a blocked punt into points after they moved to the Duke 4. The Blue Devils amped up the pressure on fourth down, blitzing defenders who knifed through the line to make tackles in the backfield.
Duke lost starting center Austin Davis and leading rusher Jela Duncan to leg injuries. Neither player returned to the game. Left guard Zach Harmon moved over to center in the absence of Davis, and he successfully executed each of his snaps in the harsh conditions.
WET AND WILD
The teams played in an almost-empty stadium due to the weather. But a few fans channeled the creativity of their basketball brethren, the Cameron Crazies, and cheered without shirts while wearing swimsuits, swim caps and goggles.
Army: After playing four of their first five games on the road, the Black Knights return home against Louisiana-Lafayette for their first home game since Sept. 10.
Duke: The Blue Devils visit No. 7 Louisville on Friday night to kick off the second half of their season. Four of the remaining six opponents on Duke’s schedule entered the weekend ranked.