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Northwestern at Duke: First Half Takeaways and What to Look for in the Second Half

Five key takeaways from the first half of the Northwestern-Duke game.

Start slow and get burned.

An issue that plagued the Wildcats in their season opening loss was their slow start, finding themselves in an early 21-0 deficit. That lead would end up being too much for the Wildcats to overcome as they fell 38-21. Similarly today, on the very first play of the game the Wildcats had a delay of game. They started the game with two consecutive three and outs leading to a quick 14-0 deficit less than five minutes into the game.

Defense? What’s that?

As they say, defense wins championships. While football has evolved into a very heavy offensive game, that sentiment still rings true as a competent defense is needed for a team to be a true championship contender. The Wildcats appeared to have missed the memo as the defense has been absolutely shredded this half to the tune of 420 total yards, including 130 yards on the first two drives for the Blue Devils. 

Holmberg and Durant: A two-headed monster.

Coming into the game, the Wildcats' defense knew to look out for Blue Devils running back Mataeo Durant who was the leading rusher in the ACC. Durant started out hot, getting six carries in the first quarter for 59 yards and a touchdown. He would finish the half with 13 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown. The Blue Devils have looked just as lethal through the air, as quarterback Gunnar Holmberg started his day with an impressive first quarter stat line, throwing for 169 yards and a touchdown on 12/15 passing. Holmberg would continue to torch the Wildcat defense, ending the half with 221 yards and a touchdown on 20/27 passing. 

Wildcats offense missing, last seen on 9/11/21.

After the end of the first quarter, the Blue Devils offense had 250 yards of total offense. The Wildcats? A whopping 95 yards. Quarterback Hunter Johnson did not look good, tossing two interceptions and a brutal fumble coming at the end of a long Northwestern drive, squashing any momentum they had built. The Wildcats finished the half with a mere 214 yards compared to the Blue Devils who had 420 yards of offense.

Hunter Johnson channels his inner Sam Darnold, seeing ghosts out there.

Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson, to put it kindly, has not had himself a good first half of football. Through a quarter and a half, Johnson racked up four turnovers, tossing three interceptions and coughing up a devastating fumble on the end of a promising Wildcat drive. Johnson finished the half with (insert stat line). Head coach Pat Fitzgerald pulled Johnson in favor of backup quarterback Andrew Marty on the final drive of the half for Northwestern. 

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