Duke finally figured out how to grab an early lead, but a quick start did nothing to affect the usual final results on the scoreboard in a 38-13 loss to the Navy Midshipmen Saturday afternoon at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Navy used only five pass attempts for the game, but Duke had no answer for the triple option offense, which Navy used to roll up 435 rushing yards.
The Blue Devils opened up a 6-0 lead less than two minutes into the game on a five play, 70-yard drive that featured a 38-yard pass from Thaddeus Lewis to Eron Riley down to the Navy one yard line.
However, following Requan Boyette's one yard touchdown run, kicker Joe Surgan's troubles continued when he pushed the extra point attempt wide to the right.
That turned out to be a bad omen for the rest of the day.
Navy used a methodical 11 play drive to take a 7-6 lead and by the end of the first quarter had built a 14-6 lead thanks to great field position generated by Reggie Campbell's 44-yard punt return.
The Midshipmen scored their second touchdown on a fourth-and-goal plunge from the one yard line by fullback Adam Ballard, and it only got worse from that point on.
Duke's final best chance to get back in the game fizzled at the end of the first half.
Trailing by a 24-6 score, the Blue Devils recovered a Navy fumble and drove the ball inside the Midshipmen 15 yard line.
Facing a fourth-and-five from the 12 yard line, Roof elected to send Surgan out for a 29-yard field goal try.
That kick came off Surgan's foot at a low angle and was blocked at the line, effectively taking any remaining air out of the Duke sideline.
The ugliest point of the game had nothing to do with the scoreboard and everything to do with mounting frustration for the Blue Devils.
Trailing 31-6 early in the fourth quarter, Midshipmen quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada gained two of his game high 119 rushing yards to move Navy inside Duke's 25-yard line.
That's when Blue Devil linebacker Greg Akinbiyi made the terrible mistake of kicking Kaheaku-Enhada in the head after the whistle.
Akinbiyi got a 15-yard persoanl foul penalty, an ejection, and some harsh words from coach Ted Roof on his way off the field.
The unfortunate incident couldn't have come at a worse time, as it only compounded the problem of Duke's dreadful on field performance.
Roof called the effort "unacceptable" after the loss.
Only a touchdown pass from Lewis to Jomar Wright in the game's final two minutes added a bit of cosmetic improvement to the final score.
If there was a bright side to the afternoon, it was once again the combined effots of running backs Justin Boyle and Requan Boyette.
Despite Boyle losing a fumble, he and Boyette combined for 119 yards and a touchdown on the afternoon, but the production was far from enough to save Duke, which has seen a solid defensive year turn very sour over the last two weeks.
After being dominated by Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson last Saturday, Kaheaku-Enhada had his way with the Blue Devils Saturday.
With Enhada at the controls, Navy averaged 6.2 yards per rush and even did damage through the air when Enhada connected with Campbell on a 19-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to bury Duke for good.
Jeramy Edwards and Mike Tauiliili combined to make 28 tackles, but most of those tackles came after the Midshipmen had already gained a chunk of yardage.
With the loss to Navy, Duke now has just three games left to get in the win column in 2006.
The challenge only gets more difficult next week with a road trip to Boston College for a 7 p.m. kickoff.