Early miscues too much for Duke to overcome as Army hands Blue Devils their sixth consecutive loss

Army running back Kell Walker (5) makes a catch for 42 yards in front of Duke linebacker Koby Quansah (49) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
Army running back Kell Walker (5) makes a catch for 42 yards in front of Duke linebacker Koby Quansah (49) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink) AP

First-half mistakes left Duke in a deep hole and a sixth consecutive loss resulted on Saturday.

Army turned a Duke fumble into a touchdown and returned a blocked punt for another score before holding on to beat the Blue Devils 21-16 at Michie Stadium.

Once 4-0, Duke (4-6) dropped its sixth consecutive game. Four of the losses have come by a touchdown or less.

Duke pulled within five points on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Army (8-2) used its rush-heavy offense to control the ball for more than 12 minutes of the final period.

The Black Knights drove to the Duke 3 on their first possession of the fourth quarter. But after Duke’s Mike Ramsay blocked a 21-yard field-goal attempt, Duke took over at its 17 trailing 21-16 with 4:15 to play.

An 8-yard pass from Danile Jones to Chris Taylor moved Duke to the 28. But an incomplete pass when Jones was hit as he threw preceded an Army sack that moved Duke back to its 20.

Jones was hit again as he threw a third-down incompletion and, faced with fourth-and-18, Duke punted the ball back to Army with 2:24 to play.

The Blue Devils never regained the ball as Army ran out the clock.

After completing 12 of his first 15 passes, Jones struggled as the game progressed. He finished 19 of 29 for 164 yards and was sacked four times while throwing one interception.

By returning a blocked Duke punt for a touchdown and turning a Duke fumble into another score, Army built a 21-3 lead in the first half.

The Blue Devils trailed 21-10 at halftme and with their defense stifling the Black Knights in the third quarter, clawed even closer.

Duke defensive tackle Victor Dimukeje recovered an Army fumble off bad pitch to stop a Black Knights drive in Duke territory.

After taking over at their own 33, the Blue Devils used more than six minutes to drive for a touchdown. Jones’ running and passing keyed the drive as he completed passes for 11 and 10 yards to Aaron Young. On fourth-and-5 from the Army 34, Jones fired a 5-yard pass to Johnathan Lloyd to keep the drive alive.

After an Army defensive holding penalty, Jones ran four consecutive times to move Duke to the Army 1. Brittain Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter left Army with a 21-16 lead.

Duke attempted two-point conversion, but Jones’ run was stopped.

That’s when Army did what Army does. Using their triple-option offense to run the ball on 17 consecutive plays, the Black Knights erased more than 10 minutes off the fourth-quarter clock.

But after having first-and-goal on the Duke 3, Army was penalized twice for false starts. Faced with fourth-and-goal from the 3, Army opted to try a field goal to take an eight-point lead. But Ramsay blocked it

Duke actually took a 3-0 lead on its first possession of the game. Jones completed two passes – one for 18 yards to Quay Chambers on a flea flicker and another to T.J. Rahming for 15 yards – as the Blue Devils reached the Army 10.

But, as has been the case too often this season, the Blue Devils failed to reach the end zone and settled for Austin Parker’s 22-yard field goal.

Army, though, got its offense clicking. After failing to record a first down on its first drive, Army moved the ball 80 yards on 11 plays to take the lead. Duke provided help when defensive lineman Edgar Cerenord was called for a personal foul penalty on a play at the Duke 40 where the Blue Devils had stopped Army for a short gain.

Darnell Woolfolk scored on a 3-yard run for a 7-3 Army lead.

Duke reached its 40 on the ensuing possession when things fell completely apart. Jones was sacked for a 10-yard loss and, after a short Shaun Wilson run, Jones was called for intentional grounding on third down to force a Duke punt.

When Army’s Andy Davidson burst through the line to block Parker’s punt, Connor Slomka picked up the bouncing ball and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to put the Black Knights up 14-3.

On its next possession, Duke moved from its 13 to the Army 33 as Jones completed three passes and Army was called for pass interference on third down. But Jones mishandled a snap and fumbled. Army’s Rhyan England recovered with 10:58 left in the first half.

Army needed just five plays to turn that turnover into points.

After Duke’s defense stuffed the running game on the first two plays, Bradshaw completed a 42-yard pass to Kell Walker on third-and-9 to the Duke 21.

How rare was that? Army defeated Air Force 21-0 a week earlier without completing a pass.

Bradshaw’s 18-yard run with 8:20 left in the first half gave Army a 21-3 lead.

The Duke offense responded nicely, though, with an impressive 86-yard, 11-play drive. Jones completed all four of miss mid-range passes on the drive before he ran for a 4-yard touchdown to slice Army’s lead to 21-10.