Chris Taylor's 52-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter helped Duke break the game open.


Extra point: Duke football vs. Northwestern

Duke moved to 2-0 to start its season with a statement 41-17 win against Northwestern. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones gained 413 total yards and four touchdowns to lead the Blue Devil offense. 

Revisiting the three keys to the game: 

Contain Justin Jackson

The Blue Devils bottled up Jackson and the Wildcats’ rushing attack, allowing Northwestern to rush for just 22 yards on 21 carries. Jackson himself totaled just seven carries for 18 yards, forcing the Wildcats to lean more on their passing attack—with poor results. Duke outgained Northwestern 538-191 and left the Wildcats with no ability to move the ball. 

Pressure the quarterback

The Blue Devil defense put pressure on quarterback Clayton Thorson all game long, racking up four sacks and five tackles for loss. The heat got to Thorson, who completed just 11 of his 29 passing attempts for 120 yards and finished with a QBR of 11.2. 

Maintain a balanced offensive approach

The Blue Devils were strong in both phases of their offense, passing for 305 yards and rushing for 233. Jones rushed 16 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns, leading Duke’s rushing attack. The rest of the Blue Devil running game wasn’t quite as strong, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, but Northwestern never had answers for Duke’s two-dimensional offense. 

Three key plays: 

  • 1:15 remaining, first quarter: With Duke down 3-0, Jones had thrown an interception on the previous drive and was picked off once again the red zone, but a targeting call against Northwestern’s Jared McGee negated the pick. McGee illegally hit Blue Devil tight end Davis Koppenhaver while he tried to make a catch, tipping the ball into the air for Godwin Igwebuike to intercept. The controversial call swung the momentum in Duke’s favor, as the Blue Devils scored two plays later and never trailed again.
  • 13:18 remaining, second quarter: Holding a 7-3 lead, Jones helped Duke pull away from Northwestern with a 52-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Chris Taylor. With no defender within 10 yards of him, the redshirt junior was able to waltz into the end zone after catching Jones’ pass. 
  • 12:10 remaining, third quarter: Down 11 points after the half, Northwestern was driving in Duke territory with a chance to make it a one-possession game. But Clayton Thorson threw a wayward pass away from his receiver, and cornerback Mark Gilbert made him pay, diving to make an interception that set the stage for the Blue Devils to outscore Northwestern 20-7 the rest of the way. 

Three key stats: 

  • Northwestern ran for just one yard per carry: Duke’s defense never let Jackson and Northwestern run with the ball, putting pressure on Thorson to carry the offense. The Wildcats never had any semblance of balance and weren’t able to keep up with Jones and the Blue Devils. 
  • Daniel Jones rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns: On a day in which neither Brittain Brown nor Shaun Wilson were able to take control, Jones provided the balance for Duke’s offense. Whether off the option or on the scramble, the Charlotte native kept the Wildcats guessing, helping the Blue Devils break through on offense for the first time in three years against Northwestern. 
  • Austin Parker makes both of his field goal attempts: Although it ultimately didn’t decide the game, Parker’s perfect placekicking day is a solid sign moving forward for a team that made the fewest field goals in the nation last season. Parker made field goals of 31 and 24 yards in the victory and made all five of his PAT attempts. 

And the Duke game ball goes to…. Daniel Jones

Jones was an efficient and dangerous force for Duke Saturday, helping it get over the hump against the Wildcats. He did what he couldn’t do last year and Thomas Sirk couldn’t in 2015—score a lot more than 13 points. The redshirt sophomore battled through early adversity to steady the Blue Devils despite the Wildcats singular focus on slowing him. 

And the Northwestern game ball goes to.... Paddy Fisher

Not a lot went right for the Wildcats, but Fisher was there to clean up the mess. The freshman linebacker made 18 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss, the lone bright spot in a front seven that allowed 233 rushing yards. 

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