Where: Wallace Wade Stadium
When: 12:30 p.m. (EST)
Line: Duke -3
Duke and Navy head into battle Saturday with two very potent but different offenses. Duke likes to toss the ball around, while Navy primarily sticks to their running game. Each team is coming off a win: Navy beat Air Force at home last week, and Duke did the same to Troy before their bye. Most Duke football games have become shoot outs, but if Navy can run the ball and take time off the clock, the number of opportunities Duke has offensively will be limited. With 4 out of their last 6 games being on the road, a win here for Duke will be critical in the stride to become bowl eligible.
Navy famously runs the triple option offense, and quarterback Keenan Reynolds does an outstanding job of doing so. By far Navy’s most important offensive player, Reynolds doesn’t only lead the team in passing, he also leads them in rushing by a fairly large margin. He has accounted for nine touchdowns (7 rushing) and over 750 total yards from scrimmage. The triple option offense is a primarily running attack with a pass thrown in every couple of possessions. Over 80% of Navy’s offensive plays have been runs this season. Of the Midshipmen’s 17 touchdowns, 15 have been on the ground. They share the wealth at the position with Chris Swain and Darius Staten each compiling for over 130 yards rushing so far this year. While their offense has been impressive, Navy’s defense has been surprisingly one of the best in the nation so far this season. They rank 22nd in scoring defense, only allowing a mere 17.8 points per game. They have lots of impact players starting with linebackers Chris Johnson and Cody Peterson who are the hard nose leaders and play callers of the unit. They have been a kind of bend-but-don’t-break defense, giving up yards, but playing good defense on their own side of the field to prevent offenses from putting up big point totals.
All the talk coming off Duke’s bye week is whether starting QB Anthony Boone will play. He has been listed as a game time decision, and Duke coach David Cutcliffe sure isn’t ruling out the possibility of Boone suiting up. “I wouldn’t call it doubtful”, Cutcliffe said, “but I’d have to call it questionable.” Regardless of who starts under center for Duke, we can be certain the passing game will be in full force. Jamison Crowder is not surprisingly Duke’s biggest weapon at wide receiver with over 500 yards receiving already on the season. Jela Duncan and Josh snead each have over 200 yards rushing for Duke, and backup quarterback Brandon Connette has been an efficient rusher as well with 6 touchdowns. The question is always Duke’s defense and whether or not they can stop anybody. Teams who have done well against Duke have been mainly passing offenses, so Navy will be a different but equally tough task. Duke’s defensive line returned all four starters from last year, but have been less than impressive to say the least, especially in ACC play. Against a team who runs a similar offense in Georgia Tech, Duke’s defense gave up a staggering 18 plays of 10 or more yards. They will need to be much better tackling wise against Navy or it could be a long day.
The key to this game will be if Duke can finish drives with touchdowns. Whenever Navy gets the ball in the red zone, they usually score. With the likely limited time of possession Duke will have offensively, they will need to capitalize on every opportunity they get. If Boone plays, it will be a spark for Duke, but I do not think it will be enough. I think both Navy’s ability to run and take care of the ball will prove to be too much in the end and they will prevail 31-27