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NU’s comeback comes up short at Duke

Backup QB Andrew Marty leads Wildcats’ rally before late injury.

Northwestern vs. Duke
Northwestern quarterback Andrew Marty, front left, fumbles after being hit by Duke defensive end Ben Frye (93) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. Duke recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) ORG XMIT: NCCS112
Chris Seward/AP

DURHAM, N.C. — Andrew Marty took over for a struggling Hunter Johnson at quarterback in the second quarter and led three touchdown drives before being injured in the fourth, but Northwestern was unable to dig itself all the way out of a 27-point hole and lost to Duke 30-23 on Saturday.

The Blue Devils (2-1) led 27-0 and Johnson, who had completed only 6 of 16 passes, had thrown three interceptions for the Wildcats (1-2) before Marty entered late in the second quarter. He immediately guided NU on a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Gill that got the Wildcats on the board.

NU, which trailed 30-7 at the break, continued its comeback in the third quarter. Marty, who was 11-for-16 for 151 yards, pulled the Wildcats to 30-13 with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Marshall Lang, then to 30-20 on a one-yard touchdown run.

But Marty, who also ran for 42 yards on seven carries, suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in the fourth quarter, and NU’s rally stalled. He was replaced by Ryan Hilinski, a transfer from South Carolina, and the Wildcats managed only a 25-yard field goal by Charlie Kuhbander in the final quarter.

‘‘I thought [Marty] went in and was ready to roll,’’ NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ‘‘He was confident and capable. It’s unfortunate he got hurt, but I thought he gave us a spark, and I’m really proud of him.’’

Duke, which had the ball for 38 minutes to the Wildcats’ 22, scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and did all its scoring in the first half. The Blue Devils were efficient on both sides of the ball early on, scoring on six of their first eight possessions behind Gunnar Holmberg, who completed 32 of 45 passes for a career-high 317 yards and a touchdown. But the potency of Duke’s attack dwindled in the second half, when it was outscored 16-0.

Maceo Jones added 143 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Blue Devils, but he also fumbled twice. One of the fumbles set up one of NU’s touchdowns.

Defensively, Duke did something it hadn’t done in seven years by forcing five turnovers. The last time the Blue Devils had that many takeaways in a game was Sept. 20, 2014, against Tulane.

‘‘I would like to stop doing what losing teams do,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘Losing teams turn the ball over. Losing teams have self-inflicted wounds. Losing teams give up explosive plays. Losing teams have communication issues. That’s why you lose games. This is not hard. I’m not trying to discredit Duke, but we gift-wrapped it for them.’’