This Saturday, the Wildcats will travel to Durham, North Carolina, to take on the Duke Blue Devils in a game that could be a turning point for both teams' seasons.
Duke enters Week 3 with a 1-1 record after a solid 45-17 win over North Carolina A&T, where the Blue Devil offense ran for six touchdowns against the Aggies. But Northwestern's defense shut down Indiana State last Saturday, holding the Sycamores to 31 rushing yards and earning the Wildcats a similar 1-1 record. To beat the Blue Devils, Chicago's Big Ten team believes the key is going back to the basics.
"The focus is on winning our one-on-one matchups and trusting ourselves and our eyes," said Wildcat defensive back AJ Hampton. "They [Duke] haven't done anything that we haven't seen before, so we just have to trust ourselves and do what we do."
Hampton played a large role in the defensive back unit that allowed the Sycamores just 132 yards passing and a paltry 3.9 yards per pass attempt. The junior logged three of the four Wildcat pass breakups of the day, and aims to record a repeat performance this weekend.
"We know they [Duke] likes to take a lot of shots, so if we [the DB group] focus on winning our plays and bringing the energy, everyone else will do the same," Hampton said.
Though Hampton says he does not typically highlight specific players on opposing teams, he called out Duke senior wide receiver Jake Bobo and junior wide receiver Jalon Calhoun as two offensive threats. The Wildcats will also have to slow down Duke running back Mataeo Durant, who ranks sixth in the NCAA in rushing yards and third in the country in yards after contact according to Pro Football Focus.
While Northwestern senior linebacker Chris Bergin acknowledges that Durant is a "good back," he has faith that the Wildcats will be ready to take on whatever the Blue Devil offense brings to the game.
"Having the coaching staff that we do, and the way they prepare us, we have no excuse to not get a week better," Bergin said. "We give every opponent the same respect, and the defense you see this week will be different than the defense you saw last week."
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