Army holds off Duke 21-16, finishes unbeaten at home
By JOHN KEKIS
Nov. 11, 2017
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Chalk up another milestone for Army coach Jeff Monken.
Ahmad Bradshaw scored on an 18-yard run, Javhari Bourdeau returned a blocked punt for another touchdown, and Army beat mistake-prone Duke 21-16 on Saturday to finish the season unbeaten in six games at Michie Stadium.
It's the first Army team to be perfect at home in a season since 1996. That the victory came on Veterans Day and two years after Duke had embarrassed the Black Knights 44-3 on their home turf made it that much more special.
"Just a fantastic day to be able to represent the Army and the way we did," said Monken, in his fourth season at West Point. "I think that's the best thing that we can do on this day is play like we did, with a lot of toughness and a lot of grit.
"It wasn't perfect, but in the end it was good enough. I'm really, really proud of our team."
Army (8-2), fresh from a dominating 21-0 victory at Air Force, has won six in a row. Duke (4-6) is headed in the opposite direction, having lost six straight, and now has to win its final two games to become eligible to play in a bowl game.
"We're going to run to it," said Duke quarterback Daniel Wilson, who was 19 of 29 for 164 yards and one interception passing and scored on a 4-yard run in the second quarter. "We still have an opportunity to finish strong. We'll do our best to do that."
Duke was 4-1 in its previous five meetings with Army, but the Blue Devils were done in by the blocked kick and a lost fumble despite a staunch defensive effort.
Army, which entered the game ranked first in rushing in the nation behind its triple option, had only three possessions in the second half, but one in the fourth quarter hurt the Blue Devils in a big way.
After Wilson guided Duke to a touchdown that moved the Blue Devils within five points early in the final quarter — he was stuffed on the two-point conversion attempt — Bradshaw guided Army on a 75-yard drive in 18 plays that lasted 12:24 and gave Duke little margin for error.
When Duke defensive tackle Mike Ramsay blocked a 20-yard field goal attempt by Blake Wilson to breathe new life into a late comeback with just over four minutes left, the Army defense swarmed all over Wilson. In a series of three straight plays, he was hit twice as he tried to pass and sacked by defensive back Elijah Riley, forcing a punt with just over two minutes left. Duke never got the ball back.
"I was convinced that we had a real shot to win the game right there with that field-goal block," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "Two turnovers stopped us."
In the first half, Duke outgained Army and even held the ball a tad longer than the Black Knights.
After falling behind 3-0, Army drove 80 yards in 11 plays to gain a lead it never relinquished, with Andy Davidson rushing for 37 yards on four carries to help set up Darnell Woolfolk's 3-yard touchdown.
Army then forced the Blue Devils to punt, and Davidson used his expertise on special teams to block the kick. Bourdeau, a freshman defensive back, quickly scooped it up and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter.
When Duke got the ball back, the Blue Devils committed another gaffe. Daniel Jones mishandled a snap on first down and Army safety Rhyan England recovered the fumble at the Army 36.
The triple option offers an element of mystery when it comes to Army, which did not attempt a pass in the win over Air Force and ranks last nationally in passing. Bradshaw stunned Duke with his only throw of the game, hitting a wide-open Kell Walker down the left side for 42 yards on a third-and-9 play. Two plays later, Bradshaw scored untouched over right tackle for what proved to be the decisive score.
"Being able to go win our eighth game and go undefeated at home this year, it's just very special to be a part of that," senior defensive end John Voit said. "Helping build that (winning) culture, it's been amazing, surreal. I don't think it's hit me yet."
Duke: Coming off a bye week, Duke faced the first of two straight games against the triple option with Georgia Tech next on the schedule. The Blue Devils held Army to a season-low 226 yards rushing, well below its average of 365.4 yards, so that bodes well for next week.
"It felt good knowing that we could hold this team," Ramsay said. "They've kind of dominated a lot of other teams. Being able to shut them down, get that field goal blocked, was a big momentum change for the team."
Army: The Black Knights continued their impressive run, overcoming an Atlantic Coast Conference team that was desperate for a win. They can match the school record for victories in a season if they win their final two games.
Duke: The Blue Devils host Georgia Tech next Saturday afternoon.
Army: The Black Knights are at North Texas next Saturday night.
Kekis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Greek1947