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Jim On Duke’s Win Over Northwestern

Jim’s take on Duke’s big win

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NCAA Football: Duke at Northwestern
Sep 8, 2018; Evanston, IL, USA; Duke Blue Devils linebacker Ben Humphreys (34) reacts after defeating the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Duke won the battle, defeating Northwestern 21-7, to go 2-0 on the season, five wins in a row going back to last season.

` Did they lose the battle?

I’m sure the term “Pyrrhic Victory” has occurred to more than a few folks. Duke ended the game with cornerback Mark Gilbert (ankle or foot) and Daniel Jones (collarbone) among the too-many-to-count Blue Devils nursing injuries on the sidelines or back in Durham.

We’ll know more when we know more. Lots of fingers crossed.

But for now, let’s focus on Duke winning on the road against a favored team from a Power-F conference, on a nine-game winning streak.

Much of the pre-game narrative focused on Northwestern’s revenge advantage, payback for the 41-17 beating Duke delivered last season.

It seemed like that narrative had staying power early. Northwestern moved down the field with ease on its opening drive, while Duke’s two opening drives were on the desultory side of the scale.

But those seven points were it. Duke’s defense took over, sacks and pressures and picks, even without Gilbert, who left late in the second quarter and didn’t’ return.

And Daniel Jones unstoppable in the first half, shredding Northwestern with as much effectiveness has he mustered last season.

Jones threw three TD passes before intermission, a 52-yard strike to Johnathan Lloyd and short tosses to T.J. Rahming and Davis Koppenhaver, the latter a highlight-reel one-hander in the back of the end zone.

The half ended 21-7 and that’s the way it ended, after a Herculean effort by a patched-up secondary. Sophomores Marquis Waters and Michael Carter had big games, while players like Josh Blackwell, Leonard Johnson and Brandon Feamster made an impact.

Duke’s offense didn’t do much of anything in the second half and Northwestern kept getting the ball on Duke’s side of midfield. They passed up a short field goal, they passed up some long field goals and they kept giving up the ball on downs. The Wildcats were one-for-five on fourth-down conversions.

Duke has prioritized building depth and that paid off in a big way. Two of Duke’s four sacks were from Terrell Lucas and Chris Rumph II. Johnson had one of Duke’s seven passes defended and garnered seven tackles.

Carter was the break-out star, with eight tackles, two passes broken up and an interception.

If the junior Gilbert is out for any appreciable length of time, Duke’s young corners will be forced to grow up quickly. But today was an encouraging show.

It wasn’t just the newbies. The old-reliables were very much in evidence. Senior linebacker Ben Humphries was all over the field, perhaps his finest game in a Duke uniform. Joe Giles-Harris and Dylan Singleton had 10 each.

Baylor next, Saturday at 3:30 Duke time.

I suspect Duke might well be leaving Jones and Gilbert back home in Durham.

That’s why the coaches get paid the big bucks.


Despite sitting out the last quarter, Jones ended 16-for-22, for 192 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. In his last two games against Northwestern, Jones is 45-for-67, for 497 yards, five touchdowns, one interception.

If Austin Parker was rusty from missing spring ball, he had plenty of chances to shake it off. He averaged 42.2 yards on nine punts.

Duke hasn’t allowed a point in the fourth quarter in its last seven games.

Lloyd’s 94 receiving yards is a career high. He had five receptions.

Deon Jackson had a career-high 52 yards, on 18 rushes. Duke averaged only 2.5 yards per carry.