WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army football team returns to the road this Saturday when the Black Knights travel to Durham, N.C., to battle Atlantic Coast Conference foe Duke. Kickoff from Wallace Wade Stadium is scheduled for 3 p.m.
The game will be video streamed live on ESPN3 with Ryan Rose (play by play) and Jay Taylor (color analyst) calling the action. The broadcast can be accessed by logging on to www.espn3.com. The Army Athletic Association will be hosting a viewing party at Michie Stadium and fans can watch the game live on the facility's ITT Knight Vision video board. Admission to the viewing party is free.
The Army Sports Network will have the audio call of the game on its flagship station WABC (770-AM), as well as WALL (1340-AM) and WEOK (1390-AM), Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 152) and ITT Knight Vision. Rich DeMarco (play by play), Dean Darling (color analyst) and Tony Morino (sideline reporter) will cover the game on the Army Sports Network.
Army (2-1) is coming off a 24-0 shutout of North Texas last Saturday. It marked the Black Knights' first blanking since defeating Akron, 20-0, during the 2005 season. It was Army's first home shutout since recording a 30-0 victory over Colgate in 1993.
Duke (1-2) was handled by top-ranked Alabama, 62-13, last weekend, and the Blue Devils will be looking to bounce back against Army. Duke opened the season with a 41-27 victory over Football Championship Subdivision foe Elon, before dropping a wild 54-48 decision to Wake Forest.
Army head coach Rich Ellerson, who is in his second season leading the Black Knights, has authored a 7-8 record at West Point. Duke is led by head coach David Cutcliffe, who is in his third season at the school. He has forged a 10-17 mark since arriving in Durham. Last year, Duke posted its highest ACC win total since 1999 when the Blue Devils won three league contests.
Army and Duke have faced off 21 previous times, with Duke leading the all-time series, 11-9-1. The Blue Devils defeated the Black Knights last year, 35-19, thanks in large part to a pair of fourth quarter interception return touchdowns.
The Black Knights' rushing offense has surpassed the 250-yard plateau in each of its first three games, and it will look to continue its dominance on the ground this week. Army has three players averaging over 50 rushing yards per game, led by senior slotback Patrick Mealy and sophomore fullback Jared Hassin, who both gain an average of 56.0 yards per contest.
The Black Knights have already scored 11 rushing touchdowns through three games, and they are averaging 27.7 points per contest.
Sophomore quarterback Trent Steelman has been steady through three games this season. The second-year signal caller is averaging 47.7 rushing yards per game and 52.0 passing yards per contest. His ability to orchestrate Ellerson's triple option attack to perfection has been impressive in the early going.
While Army still does not throw the ball much, the Black Knights have been quite effective when they go to the air. Of Army's 14 completions, 11 of them have gone for first downs. Junior Davyd Brooks (four receptions, 61 yards) and sophomore George Jordan (four catches for 43 yards) have emerged as Steelman's primary targets through three games.
The Duke offense, which averages 34.0 points per game, is operated by redshirt-sophomore quarterback Sean Renfree. Renfree is averaging 284.0 passing yards per game and has thrown seven touchdown passes. Sophomore wide receiver Conner Vernon and junior wideout Donovan Varner have been Renfree's favorite targets as both players have hauled in 20 receptions on the year. Vernon is averaging 106.7 receiving yards per game, while Varner is averaging 76.3 yards per contest.
Sophomore running back Desmond Scott is the Blue Devils' top rushing threat, averaging 79.3 yards per game. Scott is also the team's fourth-leading receiver, having caught seven passes for 74 yards out of the backfield.
The Army defense put forth its finest effort of the season against North Texas a week ago, limiting the Mean Green to 201 yards of total offense and 11 first downs. Army's opportunistic defense, which has caused five turnovers through three games, came up with a pair of takeaways against UNT.
Ellerson knows this week's matchup with Duke will be another tough one for his defense.
"It's a challenge," said Ellerson at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "We're going to need a great effort, but we expect a great effort. That doesn't necessarily guarantee success, but we will play hard. We'll have a good plan and the guys will play their tails off. It's going to be a challenge for us. (Duke) spreads you out. Renfree is extraordinary, much like the Hawai'i quarterback (Bryant Moniz). He's got a quick release. He's deadly accurate. Obviously, he's familiar with his receivers. He's got two or three guys that somehow, some way are always open. It's going to be a real challenge for us. We don't need to shut them out to be able to win. We need to get some stops and cause a takeaway along the way. It's going to take a team effort to have a chance there. One side of the ball is not going to carry the day. We're going to have to be operating on all cylinders to have a chance."
Senior linebacker Stephen Anderson leads the Black Knights with 23 tackles, while senior defensive end Josh McNary paces Army with 5.0 quarterback sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. McNary, who also ranks second on the team with 16 total tackles, is the Academy's all-time leader in quarterback sacks (23) and is tied for the school record in tackles for loss (42).
McNary, who has posted five sacks the last two weeks, drew comparisons to a couple of NFL players from Ellerson on Tuesday.
"(Josh) plays the same position in the same defense that Tedy Bruschi played, that Chris Gocong played," said Ellerson. "Tedy Bruschi played for us at Arizona and Chris Gocong at Cal Poly. Tedy just finished his career. Chris Gocong is in the middle of his. Josh plays the same position and does some of the same remarkable things with those opportunities. Each one of those guys is a little bit different. Each one of those guys, if they were going to go on and play at the next level, the next level would look at them as linebackers. For us, they are rush ends. That's the role he's playing. Those are the shoes he's walking around in, and those shoes fit just fine."
Senior defensive backs Donnie Dixon and Jordan Trimble lead the Black Knights' secondary with 14 tackles apiece. Trimble made a key interception in the end zone last week to thwart a promising North Texas drive when the game's outcome was still in doubt.
Duke's defense has struggled through three games, allowing 47.7 points per games and yielding an average of 510.7 yards of total offense per contest. The Blue Devils' run defense, which gives up an average of 223.0 yards per game, will be tested this week by Army's dynamic option attack.
Junior defensive back Matt Daniels leads Duke's defensive unit with a team-best 21 tackles and a team-high 3.5 tackles for loss. He has also recorded one of the team's five interceptions on the season. The Blue Devils, like the Black Knights, have forced seven turnovers through three games.
Army returns to the friendly confines of Michie Stadium next Saturday, Oct. 2, when the Black Knights host Temple at noon. It will be Homecoming Weekend at West Point, and the first 5,000 fans through the turnstiles will receive a Glenn Davis bobblehead doll.
Mini-plan and single-game tickets for all Army home contests are currently on sale at the Army Ticket Office, by phone at 1-877-TIX-ARMY or online at www.goARMYsports.com.