Duke starts fast, holds off Northwestern for second win

The Blue Devils got all the points they needed in the first half before holding off its Big Ten opponent for a 30-23 win

Duke cornerback Josh Blackwell dives into the end zone past Northwestern offensive linemen Ben Wrather and Sam Gerak after intercepting a pass during the second half of the Blue Devils' win Saturday. The play was called back because of a penalty (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

DURHAM — Duke scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and did all its scoring in the first half, then held off a Northwestern comeback to earn a 30-23 win in a non-conference game Saturday.

Duke was efficient on both sides of the ball early on, scoring on six of its first eight possessions behind Gunnar Holmberg, who completed 31 of 44 passes for a career-high 314 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils’ defense forced Northwestern into punt or a turnover on its first seven drives.

Mataeo Durant rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown while Jordan Moore also rushed for a score for coach David Cutcliffe’s team.

The Wildcats (1-2) didn’t score until late in the second quarter, following a change at quarterback. Starter Hunter Johnson threw three interceptions and was relieved by Andrew Marty, who orchestrated a quick scoring drive that covered 75 yards in just six plays.

Northwestern mustered two more touchdown drives, but never quite caught up with Duke (2-1). Marty was injured in the fourth quarter and left the game with an upper body injury. He was replaced by Ryan Hilinski.

Despite fumbling twice, Mateo Durant ran for 143 yards for Duke.


Duke: The potency of the Blue Devils’ attack dwindled in the second half as they were outscored 16-0, but the cushion Duke built for itself was enough to keep the Wildcats away. Defensively, Duke did something it hadn’t done in seven years by forcing five turnovers. The last time the Blue Devils had that many takeaways was Sept. 20, 2014 against Tulane.

Northwestern: In addition to exiting this game with a loss and a potential question at quarterback, the Wildcats’ competence on defense has slipped. A year ago, Northwestern had the fifth-best scoring defense in all of the Bowl Subdivision, allowing an average of just 15.6 points per-game. On Saturday, it gave up at least 30 points for the second time this season.


Duke: The Blue Devils are home for the third straight game next weekend, facing the winless Kansas Jayhawks.