Duke bedevils Army, 44-3
West Point, NY – It was a classically, beautiful fall day along the banks of the Hudson River in West Point at the US Military Academy, but that’s about where the enjoyment of attending a college football game by myself to stay on track for Game # 500 on November 21 ended for both the Army football team and collegefootballfan.com. The Duke Blue Devils totally dominated a very inept Black Knight football team, 44-3. Except for one possession in the first half and the last one of the game, Duke scored every time it had the ball, and the Cadets turned it over deep in its territory four times enabling the Blue Devils (5-1,2-1) to take a 27-0 halftime lead. As for collegefootballfan.com, the volume of traffic caused by a sell out crowd of 39,712 by combining Parents Weekend, Band Day, and Scout Day all on the same Saturday caused traffic frustrations for many converging early on West Point for a 12 noon kickoff. The small, isolated town of Highland Falls and the bucolic roadways around it are not amenable to handling such a surge of traffic. Luckily, we noted that the route to the bus lot near the ski slope is still the most efficient way to get parked and set up for an early tailgate. We will be in good shape at Game 500 for our bus riders. For those planning to join us, plan an early start and arrival to meet with us there on November 21.
On top of traffic woes, my seat in section 16, row FF was horrible as fans continue to walk by throughout the game blocking views of everyone around the stadium at that level. It’s not the fans’ faults, but the design of the old stadium is outdated for optimal viewing unlike many of the new facilities built in the last 30 years. With scout groups and lots of first-time parents visiting Michie for the first time, there were many fans with tickets in U-16 (“U” for upper) looking throughout the lower section 16 for the wrong seats. Of course I went knowing that the plethora of media time-outs scheduled by CBS-TV Sports makes a fan forget that he’s even there to watch a football game. At one point, mistiming or miscommunication seemed to extend a long media time out as the teams as well as the crowd watched a video board race among different cartoon characters. Like others sports, other forms of entertainment take over the rhythm of the games so sponsors can bombard us with the same messages during every time out because they pay so much money to the schools. It’s to the point though that it’s truly overkill. They wonder why college football attendance is dropping?
The non-competitive action on the field makes the experience the most frustrating, however, with all the other issues piled on top. By the end of the half, I decided if there was not some drastic excitement added by Army during the course of this game, I was leaving at the end of the third period to partake in some tailgating down at Rutgers on such a beautiful day for the 8 pm kickoff there versus No. 4 Michigan State. And I did! New rule: unless we are adding a new team for the very first time, “If a team can’t compete, for me the game’s complete!” I hope the Black Knights will somehow vastly improve between now and November 21. Hopefully they can beat some teams along the way that they can build some confidence on.
Duke’s Ross Martin booted a 40-yard FG the first time the ACC school had the ball. Army’s Marcus Hyatt dropped the kickoff and the Cadets started on their own eight from where they subsequently punted. After its next possession, Duke punted for its first, last, and only time putting Army back on its four. QB AJ Schurr converted a first down on a fourth and one from the 24. He came up with the same situation at the 35, but at that point he left the game with a leg injury. Sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw, the starter earlier in the season, stepped in and his awry pitch turned into a fumble that Duke recovered at the 17. QB Tom Sirk (17 for 27 passing, 197 yards, 1 TD) lofted a five-yard TD pass over the middle to TE Eric Schneider who hauled it in over his shoulder for a 10-0 Devil lead.
In the second period, Army’s drive ended with another Bradshaw fumble. Duke’s 32-yard drive resulted in a three-yard TD by back-up QB Parker Boehme to open the margin, 17-0. Duke’s next series covered 72 yards. The last 43 came on a TD run right up the middle by Jela Duncan ( 8 rushes for 78 yards, 2 TDs). By now I’m thinking it might be worthwhile to leave early. I got beers in the cooler out in the car, so why stay and watch a blow-out and battle the lines to the buses and the traffic on the way out of Highland Falls when there was plenty of time and reason for an evening tailgate party? Army punted the ball away and the half ended like it started. With 00:06 left, Martin put up three more points with a 25-yard FG. Duke commanded a 27-0 lead over the Army.
I was committed now to leave by the end of the third if the Cadets showed no signs of sudden inspiration. If the bus lines back to K Lot, site of the former West Point PX we had had a unique tailgating experience when we saw Army host New Mexico State, looked too long I decided I was going to hoof it all the way back down the hill. There was now a Subway® Sandwich shop there and I could grab a 6″ sub for the hour and 45 minute drive to The Birthplace of College Football. In retrospect, I think Army should seriously consider playing football in the Patriot League in which all its other sports now compete. They lost to last year’s league champ, Fordham, in its opener, 37-35. They play Bucknell next week. They should continue to play Navy and Air Force in their prime rivalries and add some Ivies along with their current Patriot League membership. They are on academic equality with all. They just can’t recruit with the likes of the FBS in general. Evidently, they don’t have the attraction to FBS football athletes that its sister academies seem to have. However, they do recruit nationally and one of their goals is to send their football team against some of the best around the country. However, maybe they should consider doing it at the FCS level. When Army enjoyed its football heyday, they had the best players because they took the best from other schools to train them for military service during war time. They will probably never be able to do that again. Different world. As for Michie Stadium, its design is very outdated for fan viewing. Seats are below pedestrian level as fans walk across sections to and from their seats. Most stadium designs have raised their seats above traffic aisles traversing seating sections . We won’t have this problem when our Game 500 guests sit in the upper deck with us at the Rutgers game. There are no such aisle ways there. I just plan to avoid sitting in this part of Michie again now that I’ve sat there. Sitting in section 16, it was amazing how many people were confused looking for their seats in U-16 blocking walkways, staircases, and other fans’ views looking for seats in the lower level. There is a shortage of ushers assigned at each section to help direct people to the correct seats. That would help, too.
Six minutes into the third period, Army finished its initial drive of the second half without a turnover. Instead, this drive yielded a 22-yard FG by Dan Grochowski. Maybe they had come out with at least a little more inspiration. Too little? Too late? Duke matched it with 4:30 left in the third with Martin’s 25 yarder. Army looked like it would actually challenge a little more. RB Joe Walker ran for 32 yards to Duke’s 39, and then Bradshaw threw a pass down the middle to TE Kelvin White who made a diving catch to put Army on the two, first and goal. On third and goal, LB Dwayne Norman forced Bradshaw to fumble and S Jeremy Cash recovered at the 17. I saw where this was going as the quarter ended. I left my obstructed seat, left Michie, saw the long line of fans waiting for the blue bus route buses back to K Lot and others, and decided that it was a beautiful day for a long walk down the hill, and probably a quicker way to get there as I passed buses backed up for about half a mile along my walk. I didn’t regret leaving early.
Game summaries report in the fourth that Duke drove the length of the field after the fumble with Duncan scoring a touchdown on a one-yard run. The Cadets’ next drive resulted in Bradshaw being intercepted by DB Corbin McCarthy, and the ensuing 30-yard drive resulted in a five-yard TD run by Boehme for his second making the final score, 44-3, as Duke inserted the second teamers and basically kept the ball on the ground as the clock ran out. Duke looked very efficient in this game, but the competition it faced wasn’t posing any major challenge. It’s hard to gauge how good they really are, but Duke’s 5-1 record is a marked improvement under HC David Cutcliffe relative to Duke teams before he came on board at Durham, NC. On Sunday, Duke stepped up to No. 25 in the latest AP Poll.
Next week, Army invited the Bucknell Bison ( 3-2,0-1 Patriot) to come to play at its level in which the Black Knights should be more competitive. Last Saturday, the Bison fell to fellow Patriot rival Lehigh, 21-10. Duke has a week off before jumping into its ACC schedule facing Coastal Division competitor Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. As you now know, I got in the car and headed to New Brunswick, NJ for tailgating and more to see Rutgers host No. 4 Michigan State in a game starting at 8 pm that we expected to be somewhat like the first. We hoped that this wouldn’t be, but read on…