Rapid Recap: Duke 30, Northwestern 23


Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

Andrew Marty prepares to throw a pass. The senior quarterback finished with 195 total yards and three touchdowns in Northwestern’s 30-23 loss to Duke.

Lawrence Price, Assistant Sports Editor


Entering this week’s matchup against Duke, Northwestern’s dominant 24-6 win over Indiana State hushed the questions and concerns following the team’s Week One loss to Michigan State.

However, inquiries now exist about the Wildcats after Northwestern’s 30-23 (1-2, 0-1 Big Ten) loss to the Blue Devils (2-1) in Durham.

Everything went right for Duke, especially in the first half. The team scored 21 unanswered in the first quarter, racking up 250 yards and averaging 10.4 yards per play. They finished with eight plays longer than 10 yards. On the team’s first possession, quarterback Gunnar Holmberg found Darrell Harding Jr. for 50 yards capped off by a Mataeo Durant 11-yard receiving touchdown.

The Duke running back wasn’t done yet, though, rushing for a 21-yard touchdown on the following possession and ended the half with 102 rushing yards.

After two straight three-and-outs on their first two drives, senior quarterback Hunter Johnson marched down the field nearly into the red zone after his 44-yard connection to sophomore wide receiver Bryce Kirtz. However, the drive was stifled by Johnson’s fumble.

Alongside the turnover, NU’s quarterback struggled against the Blue Devils’ defense. Before being replaced by senior quarterback Andrew Marty, Johnson threw three interceptions, one in the first and two in the second to go along with his fumble, completing six of 16 passes for 75 yards in the process.

Marty brought the Cats’ back into the game and threw two touchdowns, one a deep 31-yard shot to first-year wideout Jacob Gill and the other 20-yard pass to sophomore tight end Marshall Lang. He also rushed for one bringing the score within 10 points midway through the third quarter.

NU’s defense started to come alive with the offense’s success, forcing a fumble by sophomore defensive back Rod Heard II, his second of the day, and an interception by graduate linebacker Chris Bergin, the second of his career.

In the fourth quarter, the momentum the Cats’ held was stripped, literally, from the team. After Marty’s fumble during a quarterback run, the senior left the game with an upper-body injury and was replaced by sophomore quarterback Ryan Hilinksi.

The new quarterback was able to lead his team into the red zone with less than four minutes left in the game, ending in a field goal by graduate kicker Charlie Kubander. The Cats then gave up a Holmberg throw that resulted in a first down. Without timeouts, NU could not stop the clock and eventually suffered its second loss of the season.


1. Johnson’s troubles may make NU turn to a new quarterback option, permanently

After his career night versus Michigan State, Johnson’s struggles against Indiana State and disappointing performance at Duke was enough for coach Pat Fitzgerald to pull the plug on the senior and insert Marty into the offense. With Marty’s electric performance, throwing for 151 yards and two touchdowns and one rushing. Northwestern may want to stay with the quarterback holding the hot hand, depending on his upper-body injury, or look to South Carolina transfer sophomore Ryan Hilinski.

2. Defense leaves jury out on what’s in store moving forward

Despite holding Indiana State to 169 total yards, the Cats’ passed this threshold in the first quarter, giving up 250 of its 420 total. Although the defense forced three turnovers, with two coming in the third quarter. Northwestern’s unit learned from its early mistakes as the game progressed.With Duke providing  a more versatile offense than  the Sycamores, those struggles leave in question

3. Offensive line provides lackluster performance against Duke’s pressure

Only allowing two sacks last game, a Northwestern offensive line group featuring senior captain Sam Gerak and sophomore Peter Skoronski looked differently versus Duke’s defense. The Blue Devils were able to get into the backfield with ease in the first half, a major reason behind the team not scoring until the end of second quarter. Alongside Gerak’s injury suffered in the fourth quarter, it didn’t help that left guard Josh Priebe was inactive for the contest, and with the group’s inability to stop the pressure, it provides a scary future for a team still searching through its options at quarterback, where a strong offensive line is essential. 

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