WEST POINT, New York — Army had suffered through four losses by a combined 16 points this season, a sign of hope for a team that's been down for too long. A lopsided loss isn't likely to deter the resolve of the Black Knights.
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.
It was the worst loss for Army (1-5) at Michie Stadium since Baylor beat the Black Knights 55-0 in 1979.
"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."
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," Duke safety Jeremy Cash said. "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, whose triple option was victimized by three bad pitches the Blue Devils converted into scores. The Duke defense limited 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.
"The frustrating part is that they didn't really do anything we didn't practice for," said senior fullback Matt Giachinta, who had five carries for 11 yards. "It was a very frustrating game on offense."
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.
"We have to regroup as a team," Giachinta said. "I think the biggest thing is not to point fingers."
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. Linebacker Ben Humphreys recovered that one for Duke at the Army 32.
Army has fumbled 14 times in the past two games, losing five of them. Last year, the Black Knights lost 11 of 18 fumbles the entire season.
"I think it's a problem we've had in the last two weeks," Giachinta said of the offense's troubles with pitches. "It's something we practice all week. We just have to do a better job when we run plays like that."
Army converted just three of 14 third-down attempts while the Blue Devils were 11 of 16.
Facing the nation's ninth-ranked defense, 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.
The Black Knights used a 32-yard run by Joe Walker and a 37-yard reception by Kelvin White to drive to the Duke 2 late in the third, but another bad pitch by Bradshaw was deflected backward and Cash recovered for Duke.