DETROIT—So much for the low-scoring struggle everyone expected between defensive-minded Northern Illinois and the Blue Devils.

Duke leads the Huskies 26-14 at halftime of Tuesday's Quick Lane Bowl, settling down to finish the half strong after its momentum from a quick 14-0 start evaporated. Northern Illinois burned the Blue Devil secondary with a pair of explosive passing plays that led to two quick touchdowns early in the second quarter, but Duke recovered with two late touchdowns to regain a double-digit advantage.

Facing 4th-and-18 at its own 11-yard line with a little less than five minutes left in the first quarter, Northern Illinois elected to have punter Matt Ference throw a pass that landed out of bounds well short of the first-down sticks.

The Blue Devils capitalized on the gift with a quick 11-yard touchdown drive capped by a one-yard plunge from senior running back Shaun Wilson, but the Huskies soon seized the momentum.

Northern Illinois needed just two plays to go 68 yards and get on the scoreboard on its first drive of the second quarter, connecting on an underthrown 43-yard pass down the left sideline before running back Tre Harbison bolted through a gaping hole up the middle to cruise 25 yards into the end zone.

After a quick three-and-out for Duke, the Huskies did not need much time to even the score. On the second play of the drive, wide receiver Jauan Wesley beat freshman safety Michael Carter II down the sideline for a 67-yard touchdown catch. It took Northern Illinois just two minutes of time on the game clock to erase a 14-point deficit.

The Blue Devils regained the lead midway through the quarter when Daniel Jones lofted a deep 33-yard pass to T.J. Rahming in the end zone, and Jones tossed another touchdown pass to Wilson on Duke's next drive. The Blue Devils missed an extra point and failed on a two-point conversion following their final two touchdowns to leave a couple of points on the board.

Here are a few observations from the first half:

  • Graduate transfer William Holmquist has struggled at punter and kicker in place of Austin Parker, who was dismissed from the team earlier this month. Holmquist had one punt partially blocked and shanked his next punt—both kicks traveled just 24 yards. He also missed the extra point after the Blue Devils' third touchdown.
  • The Huskies' defensive front has largely limited Duke's running back duo. Wilson and Brittain Brown have combined for just 43 rushing yards on 16 attempts.
  • All-American Northern Illinois defensive end has not sacked Jones yet, but he did get to the quarterback to disrupt a pass in the first quarter and has made an impact with five tackles.