Duke wins at Northwestern, but losing Daniel Jones could prove costly
Duke delivered an impressive win over Northwestern, fueling would could be another strong start before it sees its first Top 25 opponent this season — but Saturday’s 21-7 rout of the Wildcats on the road may also be a costly one.
Quarterback Daniel Jones left at the end of the third quarter after being driven to the turf on a sack by Joe Gaziano with what coach David Cutcliffe says is most likely a clavicle injury. The extent is unknown, but the redshirt junior passer is expected to miss some time.
Jones threw for 192 yards and those three scores, while replacement Quentin Harris attempted just two passes for 12 yards. He also ran for another 14 yards on five attempts while directing the offense over the last 12 minutes and 34 seconds.
With Baylor — which opened its season with a victory, but is still coming off a 1-11 campaign — and FCS opponent NC Central over the next two weeks, there remains the potential that the Blue Devils could be at 4-0 heading into its Sept. 29. That’s the date of its clash with No. 12 Virginia Tech, which, if the opening week dismantling of Florida State is any indication, appears to be the class of the ACC Coastal Division.
Last season, the Blue Devils also opened up 4-0 and then proceeded to drop its next six games before rallying to reach .500 and bowl eligibility.
Regardless if Duke even equals that start, it’s clear they’re going to be tested should Jones miss any extended time.
With 10 passes last season for 73 yards, Harris is the only other QB on the roster with any collegiate experience and obviously a drop off from Jones, who is 19th among all active FBS passers in career yards. The only other QBs on the roster are redshirt freshman Chris Katretnick and Gunnar Holmberg, a true freshman.
Given the new redshirt rule that allows a player to appear in up to four games, Cutcliffe could get experimental and see whether Holmberg — who the coach has said is a redshirt target despite a promising camp — can help to bridge the cap until Jones returns.
The bet here is Cutcliffe is ultra conservative and rides a running game that hasn’t exactly been explosive — with 184 yards last week and 97 vs. the Wildcats — and a strong defense that forced two turnovers Saturday and held Northwestern to just 4-of-15 on third down.
Regardless, Jones’ injury will loom large as what could still be a strong start from the Blue Devils may be limited by just how long it is without its most important player.
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, ‘Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,’ and ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.’ are now available.