A cold day in Detroit saw both Duke and Northern Illinois get out to a cold start in the 2017 Quick Lane Bowl. However, the Blue Devils were able to heat up and roll to a 33-14 victory securing a winning record for the fourth time in five years.
To open the game the two teams would trade punts. Duke’s defense forced Northern Illinois into a three and out on their second possession of the game. The Blue Devils offense came alive driving the field 58 yards to convert a 4th-and-1 from the goal line when quarterback Daniel Jones snuck into the end zone to take a 7-0 lead.
Northern Illinois could not get anything going offensively and combined with poor field position made things very difficult. After the Huskies failed to convert a trick play on 4th down from their own 11 Duke took over and needed only four plays to get the ball into the end zone with a another one-yard score this time by running back Shaun Wilson which helped extend the Blue Devils lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter.
The Huskies came up with two big plays back to back on their first possession of the second quarter, when quarterback Marcus Childers connected with Spencer Tears for a 43-yard pass completion which set up a Tre Harbison 25-yard TD run that cut the Duke lead to 7. After Duke punted on their next possession Northern Illinois found another big play as Childers found Jauan Wesley for a 67-yard touchdown pass which tied the game at 14.
After the offense seemed to be stalling for Duke being forced to punt on their first two possessions of the second quarter, the offense dug in and went 80 yards in eight plays converting a 33-yard touchdown catch by T.J. Rahming that increased their lead to 20-14 late in the second half. The next time the offense got the ball they drove the field yet again going 64 yards in seven plays that was capped off by an 11-yard TD pass from Jones to Wilson that extended Duke’s lead to 26-14 going into halftime.
Jones led the way for the Blue Devils throwing for 178 yards and two touchdowns while also adding a rushing touchdown..
For the Huskies, it was quarterback Marcus Childers who threw for 141 yards and 1 TD
Duke came out driving on the first series of the second half but it would come to a halt when Jones fumbled on Northern Illinois 29-yard line. The fumble would not hurt the Blue Devils however as Northern Illinois again tried a trick play on special teams but came up short that allowed Duke to take over on downs. The Blue Devils would start another drive that would go 67 yards on 11 plays and result in a 7-yard TD run from Brittain Brown that helped the Blue Devils extend their lead to 33-14
Northern Illinois would not be able to get any more points on the board. Duke’s defense stood tall and shut out NIU the entire second half that helped Duke secure the win and improve to 7-6 on the season and end the 2017 season on a high note.
“Give Duke a lot of credit they ran the ball, converted on third down, threw the ball when they had to, the quarter back ran it as well to pick up some key first downs and some big plays in there to.” NIU’s head coach Rod Carey said after the game, “We certainly feel like if we would have executed we would have had a chance to have a different outcome.”
Marcus Childers led NIU’s offense with 234 passing yards and one TD while Tre Harvison scored the second of the two Husky touchdowns.
Daniel Jones was the star for the Blue Devils throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns as well as rushing for a TD.
Dukes head coach David Cutcliffe, was very happy with the win and the way that the culture is changing around his team and how far they have come.
“To come back from where we were, we were 4 and 6 a little over a month ago and things had gone south people say how do you do it or why you know how that happens is they all care about each other that much that was about being a great teammate.”