The 21st-ranked Blue Devils kept their momentum rolling, defeating Northwestern 38-14 for a third straight win. The Blue Zone analyzes the contest with three takeaways, stats and a look ahead:
Three key takeaways
1. Clean, efficient defense
Duke’s defense shined yet again as Northwestern’s quarterback Ben Bryant was held to a 50% completion percentage and only 3.6 yards per pass. The Wildcats started the game with four straight punts, two of which were three-and-outs. Duke was also able to clean up its run defense which was a weak spot in the two previous games, allowing only 104 yards on the ground. The only significant lapse by the defense was at the end of the first half when Northwestern scored its first points. An interception from graduate cornerback Myles Jones deep in Wildcat territory was the cherry on top for the Blue Devils as it set up an easy score for freshman running back Peyton Jones.
2. Riley Leonard’s heroics
Junior quarterback Riley Leonard continued his magnificent form in the matchup with Northwestern, finishing the game with 219 passing yards and a 75% completion percentage. Not only did he connect for 20-plus yard completions to three different receivers, his pocket presence and scrambling ability was on full display. In the second half, Leonard orchestrated drives lasting 80 and 94 yards, both ending in Duke touchdowns.
3. Offensive versatility
Not only did the Blue Devils show off their passing prowess, but five different rushers combined for 268 yards — including 97 from Leonard and 65 from graduate running back Jordan Waters — as Duke overpowered Northwestern’s defense. A huge part of this was the offensive line which allowed only two sacks. Bolstered by senior guard Graham Barton, the O-line was key in an offense which had over 200 more yards than the Wildcats.
Three key stats
1. 268 rush yards
Duke had a total of 268 rushing yards on 40 rushes. Leonard ran for 7.5 yards per carry with Waters rushing for 6.5 yards per carry while both found the endzone twice. The Northwestern run defense, which gave up 122 yards and two touchdowns to Rutgers Week 1, struggled to contain Duke’s rushers as many plays went further downfield even after initial contact.
2. Five catches and 112 yards for Jalon Calhoun
Leonard connected with redshirt senior wideout Jalon Calhoun five times for 112 yards, the longest being for 34 on a diving catch which set up a Blue Devil touchdown. The strong run game opened up the play action allowing Leonard to find Calhoun downfield for multiple first downs, lengthening drives and ending up with points on the board almost every time the opportunity arose.
3. 5-for-5 in red-zone scoring
A big part of the large score differential was the Blue Devils’ efficiency in the red zone. Only settling for a field goal once, Duke was able to score points on all five visits deep in Northwestern territory. All four red-zone touchdowns came on the ground as Jones, Waters and Leonard all scored. The only drives that did not make it to red zone were an early turnover on downs at the Northwestern 43-yard line, the last drive before halftime and a punt early in the fourth quarter when the score was 31-7.
Duke looks to keep its undefeated record in its first road trip of the season against UConn. The Blue Devils will most likely be favored to win by a healthy margin against the 0-3 Huskies who are coming off a 24-17 loss to FIU.
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