Northwestern’s first road trip is proving to be a real test. Little was working for the Wildcats in the first half, and as a result, they are down by a touchdown against Duke. Here are some notes from the first 30 minutes of play:
-Clayton Thorson’s outing did not kick off well. He was picked off throwing into double coverage on Northwestern’s first possession, and Duke got excellent field position at the NU 31. Thomas Sirk would eventually turn that into six with a five-yard run, the only touchdown in the first half.
-The game transitioned into a battle of field position from there. The next eleven possessions resulted in punts, and eight of those eleven drives were three-and-outs. A defensive contest was expected but not to this extreme. Northwestern only accumulated 57 total yards in the first half while Duke racked up 173 yards. The two squads were a combined 3-19 on third down.
-Duke was driving late in the second quarter and got all the way to the NU 11. Then, the punting streak ended with a Dean Lowry interception. The ‘Cats went three-and-out again before forcing another turnover. Godwin Igwebuike forced and recovered a fumble at the Blue Devil 40, giving the Wildcats great field position right before halftime. NU couldn’t punch it into the end zone, but they got into field goal range for Jack Mitchell to hit a 37-yard field goal.
-Justin Jackson had a few good runs, and that was about it for the Wildcat offense. Jackson has 29 rushing yards on 12 carries, as well as a 29-yard reception. Thorson completed just five of 16 passes for 38 yards.
-The Wildcats did own one phase in the first half. Northwestern was good all around on special teams with lengthy punting and phenomenal kick coverage. Hunter Niswander averaged over 42 yards per punt, and Duke’s return man, Ryan Smith, had negative one yard on three returns.
-It wasn’t pretty, but Northwestern’s defense kept them in this game. The ‘Cats can consider themselves lucky to be within four points at half. Pat Fitzgerald makes some adjustments in the locker room, and NU has a good chance to get a victory.