Duke beats Northern Illinois, 36-14
DETROIT (AP) — In mid-November, after a loss at Army, the Duke Blue Devils were looking at spending a second straight holiday season at home.
That made Tuesday’s success in the Quick Lane Bowl even sweeter.
After a six-game losing streak dropped them to 4-6, the Blue Devils (7-6) had to beat Georgia Tech and Wake Forest just to get bowl eligible. They managed that, got a bid to spend Christmas in Detroit, and salvaged the season with a 36-14 win over Northern Illinois.
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones finished with 338 yards of offense, throwing two touchdown passes while running for a third score, and Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown added rushing touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers threw for 234 yards and a score for Northern Illinois (8-5), while fellow redshirt freshman Tre Harbison ran for a touchdown.
The Blue Devils took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, sandwiching rushing touchdowns around a failed Northern Illinois fake punt on 4th-and-18 from their own 11.
The Huskies had two first downs and 46 yards in the quarter, but tied the game with two scores in the first 2:38 of the second.
Duke, though, moved back into a 26-14 lead with two touchdowns before halftime.
“We let up for a little while, and they took advantage of our mistakes,” Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris said. “We knew we had to get focused again, and we shut them out from there.”
Jones fumbled on the first possession of the second half, but Northern Illinois turned the ball back over after a failed fake field goal.
Duke: Other than the start of the second quarter, where they lost defensive focus on back-to-back possessions, the Blue Devils were in complete control.
“They hit a couple big plays against us, and our offense stalled, so we made some adjustments,” Cutcliffe said. “We started passing the ball more, which is what we needed, and our defense started making plays.”
Northern Illinois: The Huskies recovered from the disastrous first-quarter fake punt to get back into the game, but couldn’t stay with Duke on either side of the ball.
“We were flying around out there, trying to make plays, but we didn’t execute our game plan,” said safety Mycial Allen, who was playing in his hometown. “Duke came up with the big plays and we didn’t.”
STUNNING SPECIAL TEAMS MOVE
The Blue Devils were startled by Carey’s decision to run a fake punt in such a tough spot, especially in the first quarter of a 7-0 game.
“That was a very risky move,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re going to jam their gunners at the line, just like in press coverage, but we aren’t going to hit them after that. That means you have to complete the pass to get a first down, and that’s not easy to do.”