In their second home game of the season, Duke football emerged victorious against Northwestern with an unlikely 30-23 win. With three key takeaways, stats and a look ahead, the Blue Zone breaks down everything you need to know about the Blue Devils' close win.
Three key takeaways:
1. Young’s time to shine
To put it simply, Lummie Young IV was a star against the Wildcats. The redshirt senior safety led the Blue Devils on the defensive side of the football by recording an interception, a forced fumble and a sack, all of which came at key moments throughout the game. His forced fumble came midway through the first quarter after two three-and-out drives by Northwestern and two complementary scoring drives by Duke. On their third possession of the game, Northwestern made it into the red zone, but Young was there to sack the Wildcats’ starting quarterback and force the turnover.
2. Getting a quick start
Until this game, Duke had not scored a single first-quarter point this season. In order to gain the momentum needed to last throughout the game Saturday, it was quite clear that the Blue Devils needed to have an offensive impact quickly. That is exactly what they did against the Wildcats, turning a miserable start by Northwestern into 21 first-quarter points, the basis of a lead so large the Wildcats would never fully recover. This first-quarter scoring party was led by the Gunnar Holmberg and Mataeo Durant tandem, with true freshman Jordan Moore also sneaking into the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. Duke will look to replicate this sort of start in tough matchups down the line.
3. The Bobo show
The connection between Holmberg and wide receiver Jake Bobo is getting stronger by the game. Against Charlotte, Holmberg and Bobo connected for 81 yards. Against North Carolina A&T, that number increased to 90 yards. And against Northwestern, Bobo recorded 109 receiving yards, a new career-high. Holmberg clearly feels comfortable airing out the ball to his 6-foot-5 target, and that is especially important as teams start to adjust to Mataeo Durant’s rushing prowess.
Three key stats:
1. Zero second-half points
This game really was a tale of two halves: with 30 points scored in the first half, it seemed as if Duke was poised to continue to run up the score in the second. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Blue Devils' offense faltered, with the team's first drive of the second half ending in a punt at their own 21-yard line. Their second drive of the half was more of the same, resulting in a lost fumble just two plays into the possession. This quickly allowed the Wildcats to get into striking distance, although their comeback attempt would ultimately fall short.
2. Three interceptions
Prior to Saturday's game, the Blue Devils had been less-than-stellar on defense with not a single interception all season. That changed in a big way against the Wildcats as the defense picked off Northwestern starting quarterback Hunter Johnson three times. These interceptions paved the way for the early offense that Duke so desperately needed. All three interceptions led to scoring possessions by the Blue Devils, with the first setting the stage for a two-play, 31-yard touchdown drive at the end of the first quarter to put the Blue Devils up 21-0.
3. 102 rushing yards for Mataeo Durant
While star running back Mataeo Durant had three touchdowns against North Carolina A&T, he rushed for a mere 41 yards. Durant bounced back against Northwestern, however, with his second 100-yard rushing game of the season. The Wildcats fielded the best defense that the Blue Devils had seen all year, and to compensate, the ball needed to move both through the air and on the ground. Durant’s rushing efforts paid off there, ensuring that Duke kept getting first downs and more, leading them to an important win at home.
The Blue Devils were able to hold on against Northwestern in a tough matchup at home this week. It was a good start to the beginning of the “rest of their season” against Power Five teams. The defense stepped up, staving off a second-half Wildcat comeback, and Holmberg seemed as comfortable in his role as ever. Duke’s next game against Kansas will be all about keeping this momentum. If the Blue Devils play next Saturday like they did against the Wildcats, they will have a solid opportunity to improve to 3-1.
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Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume. He has also contributed to the sports section.