Northwestern’s defense continues to shine, and the Wildcats utterly frustrated Duke throughout a 19-10 win in Durham. It’s the second big nonconference win of the year for Northwestern, which forced three crucial turnovers. Quarterback Clayton Thorson struggled, completing just 9 of 23 passes for 70 yards, but the big plays on defense and a 55-yard touchdown run by Warren Long helped seal the win.
What the win means for Northwestern: It’s the second win of the season over a Power 5 opponent for Northwestern, and it’s another terrific performance by a defense that could be among the Big Ten’s best. With a winnable game against Ball State next on the docket, the Wildcats are poised to begin conference play 4-0.
What the loss means for Duke: This doesn’t hurt Duke’s ACC hopes, but the game underscored the big question marks on offense -- particularly for quarterback Thomas Sirk, who couldn’t find much of anything downfield. Even on third-and-longs, Duke continually threw short, and the result was a woeful 3.8 yards per pass for Sirk.
Top play: It had been an offensive disaster for both teams through three quarters, but Long finally found some running room on a third-and-short with 12:31 left in the fourth. Long rumbled virtually untouched up the middle for 55 yards, finding the end zone to give Northwestern a nine-point lead.
Stat of the game: Duke outgained Northwestern offensively 327-271, but the Blue Devils simply couldn’t sustain a drive. The Wildcats held Duke to just 3-of-17 on third-down tries, forcing 11 punts overall. For the season now, Northwestern’s defense has allowed just six conversions on 43 third-down plays.