By Will Greer

Out-coached, out-executed, outplayed. 

That’s how head coach Pat Fitzgerald described Northwestern’s blowout-loss-inducing performance Saturday at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium — a 41-17 loss that constitutes the largest non-conference defeat in Fitzgerald’s 12 seasons at the helm of Northwestern football.

Even for the most glass-half-full optimist, it’s tough to disagree with Fitzgerald’s assessment of his team’s performance Saturday. The Wildcats were out-gained 538-191, out-first-downed 34-15, and out-numbered in a multitude of other statistics. 

Justin Jackson rushed for a career-low 18 yards. Clayton Thorson had his worst game statistically since the Outback Bowl and threw a career-high-tying 2 interceptions. The offensive line allowed Thorson to be sacked four times. The defensive line allowed Duke quarterback Daniel Jones to rush for a career-high 108 yards and two touchdowns (Jones became just the second Duke quarterback ever to pass for over 300 yards and rush for over 100, by the way). The list goes on and on. It was ugly.

The Wildcats’ only glimmer of hope came late in the second quarter, when Northwestern drove down the field in 95 seconds following a Duke fumble — a drive capped off by a Justin Jackson 5-yard touchdown run. After getting outplayed in every facet of the game, the ‘Cats trailed by just 11 at halftime, 21-10.

But Duke scored 20 unanswered points to begin the second half, running away with its second win of the season and first win over Northwestern in the last three seasons.

The Wildcats welcome in Bowling Green — who lost to the FCS’s South Dakota Saturday — to Ryan Field next week, looking to get back over .500 before a bye week.