Duke Blue Devils Outlasted by Northwestern


The Duke Blue Devils got caught in a wrestling match with the #23 Northwestern Wildcats. A man who once claimed Illinois as his home once said there was a time on the field of battle when both sides felt themselves beaten. When that happens, he continued, the one that attacks first wins.

That man was Ulysses S. Grant. Today, it was Northwestern who kept pushing when both sides were deadlocked and therefore they emerged with the victory. The Wildcats try to wear down all of their foes, but probably not in the way that they finally wore down Duke.

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This was a game of turnovers and limited offensive production. No scores resulted from consistent offensive success. A kick return, short fields off turnovers, it was that kind of game. Defenders ruled the day.

X – Cash Money and Walker, Wildcat Ranger

Duke safety Jeremy Cash and Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker were terrors on the field for their respective units. Cash had eight tackles by half time including an option breaking play to stop a Northwestern drive. He also gathered tackles for loss in the early going and had some key pass breakups.

Walker had 14 tackles by the half. Some of those were patrolling the run lanes as a spy for Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk, but others were just aggressive reading of plays and wrapping the Duke running backs. Neither Shaq Powell nor Shaun Wilson had great games, with Wilson coughing up a key fumble.

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Y – Wildcats stuck to their gameplan and finally it yielded results.

While Clayton Thorson did not offer much spark at quarterback, Justin Jackson carried the mail for the Wildcats. They were not pretty runs, but he banged and swerved his way to 120 of them. All his work meant that his backup Warren Long was fresh. Long broke through the tired Duke defense to score the 55 yard touchdown that made the score 19-10 in favor of the Wildcats.

Z – The gloves never came off Sirk

In the second half, I kept waiting for Duke to turn Sirk loose and stop calling these little here and little there plays. Sirk ran too much, I felt. It never really happened. Sirk’s best play of the game was a down where he saw that the Wildcats had been whistled for offsides. He forced a ball into Max McCaffrey that was caught for what seemed to be a big first down. However Sirk did not do much of that. Maybe he can’t.

As we saw against Chapel Hill last year, when Duke gets stuck, it really gets stuck. And yet for one kickoff return for touchdown by Northwestern and they might have won this game. Georgia Tech may have a field day next week though.

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