Both teams entering the contest at Wallace Wade coming off of impressive wins against inferior opponents, the Blue Devils will certainly have to take it up a notch facing Northwestern, first power five foe, for their first Saturday game of the season. The previously two games, UNC Charlotte and NC A&T, were Friday night games.
Northwestern and Duke both rely heavily on the ground game being the catalyst to jumpstart the offense. Duke’s Mataeo Durant has 6 touchdowns on the season in just two games, while leading the conference in rushing. Northwestern’s Evan Hull, who ran for 126 yards with two touchdowns versus Indiana State, leads to rushing attack for the Wildcats.
If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It
The Wildcats’ run defense is very vulnerable. Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker racked up nearly 300 rushing yards (264) in the opener. Duke runs over 50 percent of their offense through Mataeo Durant and isn’t shy about it.
The Aggies stacked the box to counter Duke’s rushing attack – forcing Gunnar Holmberg to beat him with his arm. Expect some of the same tomorrow evening – with Gunnar needing to be efficient and fast, but the spread offense. Northwestern will stack the box, so Jalon Calhoun, Jake Bobo, and Eli Pancol will have to create distance in the secondary. Last week Gunnar Holmberg and the Duke offense, for the first time in nearly two years, didn’t turnover the ball. That’s a recipe for winning.
The Blue Devils’ defense has not recorded a turnover this season. In addition, the secondary has to be sound and discipline on plays that are extended. Shaka Heyward and company have to get to Hunter Johnson, who has been lights out – completing 66 percent of his passes on the season for Northwestern. Duke will also need to limit 3rd down conversions. Notably, N.C. A&T converted five 3rd down conversions of the ball game against Duke on their opening drive.
This has been the difference in both games this season – giving their offense opportunities to produce long drives and control time of possession. Saturday’s game against the Wildcats will determine several things. Was last weeks win just a formality of a Power Five school having more depth and talent over a FCS school? Can Duke’s secondary cut out explosive plays and get off the field on 3rd down? Will we see some sort of trickery from special teams, like the onside kick before halftime versus the Aggies that changed the momentum of the game?
Kickoff – 4 p.m.
Location– Wallace Wade Stadium
How to Watch – ACC Network on the call Wes Durham, Lericia Harris, Ro