HALFTIME: Duke 21, Northwestern 10

Despite some offensive hiccups, Duke has found a solid lead against Northwestern at the end of the first half.

The Blue Devils hold a 21-10 lead against the Wildcats in Wallace Wade Stadium. Explosive offensive plays from redshirt sophomore Daniel Jones coupled with frequent miscues from Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson have put the Blue Devils in position to break a two-game losing streak against the Wildcats.

Jones has provided much of the offense through the air and on the ground, picking up 73 rushing yards and notching two touchdowns. The Blue Devils’ young quarterback has also improved his passing game significantly from last year, going 18-of-30 in the half for 228 passing yards.

A massive targeting call on Northwestern’s cornerback Jared McGee saved Jones from his second interception in the first quarter after Northwestern caught a deflection near the end zone when McGee jarred the ball loose from Davis Koppenhaver. The call put the Blue Devils six yards from the end zone, and despite a false start call on Duke, Jones rushed the remaining 11 yards. Losing McGee puts further strain on the Wildcats' tough defense, which is already down a starting cornerback in Keith Watkins.

Although the Blue Devils have made great strides in offense, it hasn’t been without its costs. Junior TJ Rahming—who received six of Jones’ passing attempts—as well as redshirt junior Chris Taylor, who caught a long 52-yard touchdown in the second quarter, have both gone down with injuries in the second quarter.

Here are some observations from the first half:

  • Jones has connected with eight different receivers with much success. Rahming is leading the charge with 63 receiving yards, but did not return to the game after getting hit on a punt return early in the second quarter.
  • The Wildcats' Clayton Thorson is struggling to find his footing under heavy pressure from the Blue Devils, who have three sacks. Thorson is 9-of-20 through the air, a far cry from his dominant performance last season.
  • Duke threw an interception in the first quarter and nearly threw another, snapping Jones' nation-best streak of 202 straight passes without an interception four shy of Duke's school record.
  • Northwestern’s defense—which limited the Blue Devils to just 13 points last year—has struggled to put a damper on an explosive Duke offense.
  • The Blue Devils let Justin Jackson run for a five-yard touchdown rush in the final minute to give the Wildcats some momentum, but Duke has otherwise shut down Northwestern's running game.

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