Northwestern picked up its first win of the season by beating Duke 24-13, as the Blue Devils dropped to their worst start in years. The Wildcats just out-gained Duke by 10 total yards, but costly turnovers doomed the Blue Devils down the stretch. Northwestern opened the game with a 75-yard drive for a touchdown, putting Duke in trouble right from the beginning.

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Smother Justin Jackson: The Blue Devils did a fairly good job of keeping Jackson under control, holding him to 94 yards on 28 carries. Jackson also never found the end zone for the Wildcats. Although Duke succeeded in its quest to contain Jackson, the Blue Devils' aggressive focus on the run left space open downfield for quarterback Clayton Thorson, who threw for 320 yards and had three long touchdown passes.
  • Stretch the field: Duke rarely looked downfield for long passes, opting for short passes and runs instead that often left the Blue Devils short of picking up first downs. The Blue Devils never delivered an explosive play that could have swung the momentum their way, as quarterback Daniel Jones' longest pass was a 39-yard strike to Shaun Wilson in the first half. With the redshirt freshman not looking very comfortable in the pocket yet—Jones also threw an interception in the first half—Duke opted for a conservative game-plan and avoided taking many risks.
  • Don’t get caught up in the schedule: The Blue Devils are off to their worst start since 2011, and their schedule is only going to get harder with a game at Notre Dame next week. Northwestern’s intensity and focus to get its first win of the season trumped Duke’s desire to get back on track, and the Blue Devils do not have many reasonable chances at wins for the rest of the year.

Three key plays:

  • 3:03 remaining, second quarter: Duke’s best drive of the night started at its own one-yard line and ended 99 yards later with a touchdown to tie the game at seven. Running back Jela Duncan finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown run after Jones' longest pass of the night to Wilson set up the score.
  • 10:46 remaining, third quarter: With the game tied 7-7 coming out of the half, Jones led the Blue Devils on a 54-yard drive to the Northwestern 17 yard-line. But instead of putting Duke ahead by a touchdown, Jones fumbled in the red zone on a run for a loss of three yards. Anthony Walker Jr.—an All-American linebacker for the Wildcats—got his hand on the ball to strip it and came up with the recovery.
  • 4:56 remaining, fourth quarter: To add insult to injury and put Northwestern up 24-7 late in the game, Thorson completed a 58-yard touchdown pass to Austin Carr—who was all alone down the field with no Blue Devil defender in sight—to seal the game for the Wildcats. As the third long touchdown pass of the game, the pass was characteristic of breakdowns in Duke's secondary throughout the night.

Three key stats:

  • A.J. Reed goes 0-for-1 on field goals and 1-for-2 on extra points: Reed, a freshman in only his third start, has proved that the transition to Division I football is a tough one. Reed followed up a disappointing performance with two missed field goals against Wake Forest with more of the same, failing to convert a 34-yard field goal Saturday and missing an extra point after the Blue Devils' second touchdown.
  • Jela Duncan rushes for 53 yards and a touchdown: Duncan scored one of Duke’s two touchdowns on a four-yard run at the end of the first half to cap a long touchdown drive. The Charlotte native led the team in rushing yards—followed by Jones with 47 yards on the ground—and Duncan averaged 4.8 yards per carry to help put the Blue Devils in short-yardage situations several times.
  • DeVon Edwards totals 12 tackles: The redshirt senior safety had 10 solo tackles as well as two assisted tackles. Edwards combined with redshirt freshman linebacker Joe Giles-Harris for 28 tackles against the Demon Deacons and had another strong showing this week, as Giles-Harris contributed four tackles against the Wildcats.

And the Duke game ball goes to…. DeVon Edwards

Edwards was the only Blue Devil defender to reach double digits in sacks and even made a few plays in the backfield, notching one of Duke's five sacks. The Covington, Ga., native put a lot of pressure on Thorson with his athleticism and was not directly responsible for any of Duke's lapses in the secondary.

And the Northwestern game ball goes to… Clayton Thorson

The redshirt sophomore quarterback threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns, which included a 58-yard touchdown as well as two more touchdown passes that went for more than 25 yards. Although Thorson completed just 18 of his 39 passes and threw two interceptions, he had his best game of the season to lead the Wildcats to their first win after averaging just 193.5 passing yards in their first two games.