Some thoughts and observations about Duke’s 24-13 loss Saturday at Northwestern.
-- Duke has a kicking problem. Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe has tried to tip-toe around it, saying positive things about his young kickers. But punter Austin Parker dropped another punt snap, and AJ Reed missed a 34-yard field goal and a point-after. The dropped snap was immediately followed by a Northwestern TD pass for a 14-7 lead. Duke also botched a fake punt in the first half.
-- Didn’t agree with the targeting call against Duke safety Deondre Singleton. The targeted area appeared to be receiver Austin Carr’s sternum, not his head and was more a shoulder-to-chest hit. Carr was so shaken up by the fourth-quarter hit that he scored a 58-yard touchdown on Northwestern’s next possession.
-- Big sequence earlier in the fourth, when there was one of those no-calls that leave coaches irate. Duke trailed 17-7 when Wildcats defensive back Montre Hartage appeared to clearly intefer with Duke’s Anthony Nash in the end zone. No penalty was called and Reed then missed the field-goal try. Would think Cutcliffe was not happy with that no-call.
-- Duke’s Daniel Jones is going through growing pains. He’s still growing as a quarterback and the Blue Devils feel the pain at times. The redshirt freshman had a first-half interception when he tried to squeeze in a pass to tight end Daniel Helm, and his fumble on a strip early in the second half in the red zone was a momentum changer as the Blue Devils appeared poised to take the lead.
-- Duke’s defense, led by senior safety DeVon Edwards, played a physical game and schematically looked pretty solid much of the night. But there were times the Blue Devils defense couldn’t get off the field on third down, and the middle of the field often was a good place for the Wildcats to throw. Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson isn’t a great passer but he was good enough.
-- If you haven’t seen Bryon Fields’ interception, check out a highlights package online. Falling and juggling all the way. Quite the play.
-- What’s up next for Duke? A trip to Notre Dame. How about bad timing. The Irish lose at home to Michigan State 36-28 after falling behind 36-7, and the Blue Devils come in this week.