In this year's ACC-B1G matchup for the Wildcats (1-2), it truly was a tale of two halves. What started as a bit of a disaster for Northwestern–seeing as the defense allowed the Blue Devils (2-1) to tally up 420 total yards (257 passing, 163 rushing) in the first 30 minutes–turned out to be an impressive showing for redshirt senior quarterback Andrew Marty as well as freshman receiver Jacob Gill and sophomore tight end Marshall Lang.
Early on, Duke's offense put on a clinic, as senior quarterback and North Carolina native Gunnar Holmberg converted first down after first down and senior running back Mataeo Durant tallied two touchdowns. Freshman quarterback/utility Jordan Moore also contributed to the Blue Devils' scoring, as he ran for 9 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter to bring Duke ahead 21-0. In fact, Holmberg and Durant contributed 77 percent of Duke's offense in the first half.
On the other hand, Northwestern senior quarterback Hunter Johnson struggled to find his rhythm, as overwhelming pressure in the pocket from the Blue Devils ultimately led to several incomplete passes and three interceptions. Before the end of the first half, Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald turned to Marty as Johnson's replacement, and he immediately made an impact, connecting with Gill for a 31-yard touchdown with 1:25 left in the first half.
In the second quarter, the scoring baton was passed to Duke's sophomore kicker Charlie Ham, as his three field goal attempts throughout the quarter–one for 23 yards, the second for 27, and the third for a whopping 50 yards–were all good and brought the Duke total to 30 before heading into the locker room at the half.
After the intermission, the Wildcats made visible improvements both offensively and defensively, as they held the Blue Devils scoreless with only 61 total yards in the third quarter while also mounting a 13-point comeback. The Northwestern scoring was led by Marty, as he connected with Lang for a 20-yard touchdown and also ran one yard for his own score before eventually leaving the game with an upper body injury.
During the second half, the Northwestern defense came to life thanks to consistent coverage by junior defensive back AJ Hampton as well as a fumble recovery by sophomore defensive back Rod Heard II. Furthermore, the Wildcats held the Blue Devils to just 8 first downs compared to their 18 in the first 30 minutes of the contest.
Despite efforts by graduate linebacker Chris Bergin with his first career interception and by graduate kicker Charlie Kuhbander with a 25-yard field goal to bring the Wildcats within one score, Northwestern could not complete the comeback.
The Blue Devils finished the day with 558 total yards and a stunning performance by senior receiver Jake Bobo, who racked up 109 receiving yards, averaging 9.9 yards per reception. For the Wildcats, sophomore running back Evan Hull led the rushing offense with 49 yards and sophomore receiver Bryce Kirtz led receivers with 72 yards.
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Northwestern will look to get back on track next week when they take on Ohio University on their home turf at 11:00 am CT.
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