Final: No. 23 Northwestern 19, Duke 10

Telling stat: Justin Jackson’s 35 carries

Pat Fitzgerald did not want a redshirt freshman quarterback to decide this one. He put the ball in the hands of his veteran tailback and went to work. This wasn’t a day that will necessarily make Jackson’s highlight reel, but he was huge when the Cats needed him. He accounted for over half of the Wildcats’ total offense even though he didn’t have a touchdown. A workman-like day was needed from the sophomore to right the ship.

Key play: Solomon Vault returns opening second half kickoff for TD

Northwestern was in desperate need of a big play from the offense to start the second half. Instead, it got one from the return game. And it got it right away. The Cats’ first-half deficit was washed away with one impressive, well-blocked 98-yard kickoff return to start the second half. It was exactly the turning point the Cats needed on the road.

Worth noting:

-Anthony Walker had 14 tackles in the first half

I feel like every week I’m talking about the Northwestern linebacker being everywhere. That couldn’t have been more true on Saturday. He finished the day with a career-high 19 tackles and looked dominant doing. Walker was huge on third down for the Cats, helping the Blue Devils to a 3-for-17 clip. We’ve talked a lot about how dominant that Northwestern defense has been, and nobody has been better than Walker.

-Clayton Thorson is a freshman

In case you forgot, Northwestern is starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback. Thorson looked like one. He threw his first pass into the ground and his second one was intercepted. He was a mere 9-of-23 passing and threw for only 70 yards. Um, those are not winning numbers. Still, Fitzgerald knew that these were the growing pains the Cats would face, especially when he was making his first true road start against a loaded secondary. There will be plenty of film for Thorson to break down after that one.

What it means: THE CATS ARE LEGIT

What if I told you three weeks ago that Northwestern would get through these first three games WITHOUT A LOSS?!?! You’d be impressed. What if I told you that the Cats would only allow 16 TOTAL POINTS through threw games? Well, you just wouldn’t believe me. The seats are going to be filling up on the Cats’ bandwagon after another impressive victory. Save one for me.