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Observations and more from Duke football's first half at Northwestern

<p>Rahming got the Blue Devils on the board with a touchdown reception in the first quarter.</p>

Rahming got the Blue Devils on the board with a touchdown reception in the first quarter.

EVANSTON, Ill.—The teams have headed to the locker room at Ryan Field with Duke leading Northwestern 21-7. Here are our thoughts on the first half as the Blue Devils look to move to 2-0 on the season:

Five observations

  1. Duke is taking advantage of its offensive depth to counter an aggressive Wildcat defense. Although the Blue Devils are primarily using their standard 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end), they have used a significant amount of hurry-up offense to keep Northwestern on its toes and prevent it from subbing.
  2. Wildcat running back Jeremy Larkin is having his way with Duke thus far. He piled up 46 rushing yards on the opening drive before punching in a two-yard score, and the sophomore has a total of XX all-purpose yards on the game. Larkin is replacing Northwestern's all-time leading rusher, Justin Jackson, but he seems to be filling those big shoes well in 2018.
  3. Michael Carter II looks much more comfortable at cornerback opposite Mark Gilbert than he did last week. He had a pass breakup on a deep ball in the opening quarter and then jumped in front of a TJ Green pass to force a turnover in Wildcat territory—but the Blue Devils couldn't capitalize.
  4. Daniel Jones' 52-yard bomb to Johnathan Lloyd midway through the second quarter was easily the best pass he's thrown in his career. After a Northwestern turnover, Duke used a great play-fake to give Lloyd time to get downfield and find the end zone for the Blue Devils' first lead of the day.
  5. Just when it looked like Duke's defense might settle in, the Blue Devils saw Gilbert limp off the field. The potential All-American couldn't put any weight on his left leg as he went to the sideline and Gilbert did not return as he was carted to the locker room before the break.

By the numbers

  • 78.6 completion percentage: Daniel Jones has been incredibly efficient for Duke. He's missed on just three pass attempts thus far, and although the yardage numbers aren't gaudy, they have certainly done the job.
  • Six different receivers: As part of the Blue Devils' offensive rotation, Jones has tossed the ball to several targets, led by Lloyd, who has three catches for 87 yards and a score. Last week against Army, Duke fed just five pass-catchers all game.
  • Two interceptions: Gilbert is still looking for his first pick of the campaign after leading the team last year, but it hasn't stopped his teammates from getting in on the action. Carter grabbed the first and safety Marquis Waters pulled down another Blue Devil interception on a floating pass from Clayton Thorson.

A moment that mattered

Late in the first quarter, Duke faced a fourth-and-one in Northwestern territory. Although the play wasn't fancy—a three-yard carry by redshirt sophomore Brittain Brown behind a trio of Blue Devil tight ends—it did the job. Duke picked up a first down and extended the drive, which would later result in a nine-yard touchdown pass to knot the game at seven apiece.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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