Behind Enemy Lines – Duke

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Let’s just say it hasn’t been a good couple weeks for the Wildcats.

After coming off an impressive 2015 season, winning 10 games and making an appearance in the Outback Bowl, the Wildcats were poised to have another great campaign in 2016.

It wasn’t until week seven last season when the Wildcats lost their second game of the year.

As for this season, it took only two weeks for the Wildcats to lose two games.

Coming off an embarrassing loss to Illinois State last week, losing 9-7, Northwestern has to find some answers going into this week’s game when they play host to the Duke Blue Devils.

Duke (1-1) is coming off a disappointed loss to Wake Forrest, losing 24-14 and being outscored 17-7 in the second half. But freshman quarterback Daniel Jones has been impressive in his first two starts.

In week one, Jones threw the ball only 15 times, completing 10 passes, and threw for 189 yards with two touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown, according to ESPN.com. In week two, it was a different story for Jones. With the Duke offense unable to establish any sort of a running game, head coach David Cutcliffe turned to his freshman quarterback and had him throw the ball 48 times. Jones was efficient, completing 65 percent of his throws for 332 yards, but it was not enough for the Blue Devils in their loss to Wake Forrest.

Duke is a team that likes to run the ball, and they showed that in their week one blowout win over North Carolina Central. The Blue Devils threw the ball 26 times and ran the ball 63 times, with senior running back Jela Duncan leading the way with 15 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns, according to ESPN.com.

Even though Jones had a decent game in their loss last week, Duke wants to get back to the style they want to play – and that is running the football with the pigskin in the hands of their senior running back – especially on the road with the Blue Devils playing away from Durham, N.C. for the first time this season.

As for the Wildcats, they are in the same situation the Blue Devils are in, which is to get back to playing ground and pound football.

If Northwestern has any chance of beating Duke they need to establish the run game with their best player Justin Jackson.

In the Wildcats devastating week one loss to Western Michigan, Jackson was the focal point of the offense with 23 carries for 124 yards and three touchdowns – along with two catches for 47 yards, according to ESPN.com. Then in week two, Jackson ran the ball only 12 times, the same amount as his quarterback.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Clayton Thorson threw the ball 41 times in that game, completing only 17 of those 41 attempts for 191 yards and one touchdown, according to ESPN.com.

Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald cannot have Thorson throw the ball that much against Duke if they want any chance of winning. Thorson is not the focal point of the offense. Justin Jackson is. He’s the player you want to have the ball with. He has proven that over the past few years and he is the reason why the Wildcats won 10 games last year, from an offensive standpoint.

With that being said, Fitzgerald most likely will get back to running the ball with Jackson, just like Duke will with Duncan.

This will be a low scoring game just like it was last year when these teams met in North Carolina with the Wildcats winning 19-10.

My prediction to the outcome of the game:

Northwestern 20

Duke 17

You can follow me on Twitter @rnickels26