Rapid Reaction: Turnovers, self-inflicted miscues doom Northwestern in road loss to Duke
Final Score: Northwestern 23, Duke 30
Brief Recap: Well, that is not the type of performance Northwestern was looking for in Week 3. Not only did the Wildcats lose to the Blue Devils out of the ACC, but the offense looked terrible in the first half and at key moments in the second half. Starting QB Hunter Johnson threw 3 first-half interceptions and was responsible for a lost fumble in the red zone before getting replaced by Andrew Marty. Marty played better and provided a spark, but even he had a lost fumble and some miscues in the second half.
In the end, Northwestern’s comeback bid was effectively done in after Marty was injured on his fumble and was forced out of play. He did not return to action and it will be interesting to see what his diagnosis is moving forward. Ryan Hilinski, the transfer out of South Carolina, replaced the injured Marty while Johnson remained on the sideline.
Key Player: The only choice here is Marty who provided a spark and helped get the Wildcats back within striking distance of the Blue Devils. Duke started off on a 27-0 tear while taking advantage of the Northwestern miscues. Once Marty was inserted into the action, the Wildcats scored 20 points to cut the lead to 10 points in the second half. Marty was responsible for every touchdown in that stretch while going 11-for-16 passing with 151 yards and 2 TDs, adding another touchdown on the ground.
Key Moment: Once again, Marty is the story of the key moment. The decision to bench Johnson for Marty gave Northwestern a fighting chance to get back into the game after Duke made it 27-0 late in the second quarter. Unfortunately, Marty’s injury in the second half provided another key moment as he was unable to get back on the field.
Key Stat: 4, first-half turnovers by Northwestern. The Wildcats finished with 5 total turnovers in the game, and it was the big reason Pat Fitzgerald’s squad was forced to play catch up all game long. Nothing is a given, but this game could have been drastically different with a clean performance by the offense. Northwestern’s defense managed to record 3 takeaways which would have normally been enough to win the turnover battle.
What it means moving forward: The Wildcats have a full-blown QB controversy on their hands and a lot of work to do moving forward. Northwestern will get Ohio in Week 4 before resuming B1G play, and it will be interesting to see who lines up under center for that game. If Marty is healthy, he seems the likely choice after his work against the Blue Devils. If he is unable to go, the decision will come down to Hilinski or Johnson.