Making the grade: Duke football vs. Northwestern
Following a slow start, the Blue Devils took the lead late in the first quarter and never looked back, blowing out Northwestern 41-17. With a strong showing from quarterback Daniel Jones and a stifling defensive effort, Duke was able to pull off a surprise rout of the Wildcats.
Pass: Completing 29 of 45 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns, Daniel Jones enjoyed a banner day against Northwestern. Although Jones only averaged 6.8 yards per attempt and threw an interception, he took advantage of a defensive breakdown with a 52-yard shot to Chris Taylor early in the second quarter. The redshirt sophomore was able to run the offense efficiently, leaving the Blue Devils to punt just three times. Junior wide receiver T.J. Rahming was a potent target for Jones—he burned the Wildcats with 12 receptions for 127 yards.
Rush: Jones was also Duke’s leading rusher, totaling 108 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Senior running back Shaun Wilson added another 58 yards and a touchdown on top of Jones’ effective running. Outside of Jones, however, the Blue Devils rushing attack was not particularly efficient, despite racking up 233 total yards as a team. Duke’s other rushers averaged 2.9 yards per carry, and redshirt freshman running back Brittain Brown fumbled the ball late in the second quarter.
X’s and O’s: The Blue Devils were dominant against Northwestern’s defense, gaining 538 yards of total offense on the day. There is still room for improvement, though, with the team committing two turnovers in Daniel Jones’ interception and Brittain Brown’s fumble, as well as two red-zone opportunities turned into short-range field goals.
Pass: Duke’s pass defense could not have been much better, limiting junior quarterback Clayton Thorson to complete just 11 of 29 attempts for 120 yards and two interceptions—both snagged by sophomore cornerback Mark Gilbert. After moving the ball well on their second drive before settling for a 40-yard field goal, the Wildcats could not get much of anything going, with the Blue Devils logging four sacks and putting constant pressure on Thorson.
Rush: Even more impressive than their pass defense was the Blue Devils’ rushing defense, limiting the Wildcats to 22 yards on 21 carries. The Wildcats’ longest rush of the day came in at 15 yards on their first play from scrimmage. Senior running back Justin Jackson was only able to muster 18 yards on seven carries. In addition to the four sacks, Duke recorded seven tackles for loss.
X’s and O’s: Duke’s defense was stifling, forcing three turnovers and seven punts while limiting the Wildcats to fewer than 200 yards on the day. There were not many areas of concern for the defense, which limited Northwestern to only two touchdowns, only one of which came while the game was still competitive.
Special Teams: B
Duke’s special teams group played well in terms of limiting yards, allowing Wildcat kick returner John Moten IV to 16.6 yards per return, but Austin Parker averaged just 30.3 yards per punt, including a 27-yard dud on the first possession for Duke.
Despite his struggles punting, Parker was perfect in the place-kicking game, converting on both of his short range field goals, one from 24 yards and the other from 31, and all five of his extra points.
The Blue Devils did not make much of a splash with returning, as T.J. Rahming only returned one of the seven Wildcat punts for seven yards, though he had another long return called back due to a block in the back. Shaun Wilson fielded the only one of Duke’s kick returns—the others resulted in touchbacks—and only gained 11 yards on his return.