Mike Elko’s first game as the Duke football coach couldn’t have gone any smoother.
The Blue Devils established a 24-0 halftime lead and never played a stressful snap during a 30-0 blanking of visiting Temple on Sept. 2.
Elko’s second game as Duke’s coach might not be quite as easy. The Blue Devils are listed as 9 1/2-point underdogs for their Saturday trip to Evanston, Ill., to face Northwestern.
The Wildcats have had a week off since rallying to beat Nebraska, 31-28, in Dublin, Ireland on Aug. 27.
“Now we’ve got to take our show on the road and go up to Big Ten country and play a really talented Northwestern football team,” Elko said. “I think they’re an extremely physical football team, something you would expect from a Big Ten team.”
The Wildcats trailed Nebraska 28-17 in the third quarter before Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost went for the jugular with an onside kick. Northwestern recovered, drove for a quick touchdown on the short field and then delivered the game-winning score in the fourth quarter on Evan Hull’s 6-yard run.
Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said scoring after the failed onside kick was critical.
“A huge momentum swing,” he said. “We went down and punched it in.”
Northwestern was outstanding on offense, rolling up 528 yards and 25 first downs. Quarterback Ryan Hilinski was an efficient 27 of 38 for 314 yards and two scores for the Wildcats, while Hull gained 119 yards on 22 rushes.
While Northwestern did allow 355 yards to Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson, the defense did come up with a pair of key interceptions. Northwestern gave up 110 yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, Duke collected exactly 500 total yards against Temple. Quarterback Riley Leonard hit on 24 of 30 passes for 328 yards, firing touchdown passes to Jordan Moore and Sahmir Higgins.
The defense permitted just 179 total yards and 12 first downs while recovering two of four fumbles.
This will be the 22nd meeting between Blue Devils and Wildcats with Duke owning an 11-10 edge, including a 30-23 decision last year in Durham, N.C.
–Field Level Media