No. 21 Duke aims for a for 3-0 start and fifth straight win against Northwestern

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke is finally settling into a normal routine entering Saturday's visit from Northwestern.

The No. 21 Blue Devils opened the year with a takedown of preseason Atlantic Coast Conference favorite Clemson on Labor Day, and then beat Championship Subdivision opponent Lafayette five days later. That has meant adjustments in how the Blue Devils (2-0) prepare, first in limiting work between games and now by building up for a normal weekend-to-weekend schedule going forward.

“We weren't able to have a high-volume practice last week,” second-year coach Mike Elko said. “So if you jump right into high-volume practice again this week, you run the risk of getting heavy legs. So we’ll kind of do about 80 to 85 percent of what we would normally do on a Tuesday and Wednesday. That should get us enough."

Duke (2-0) will try to earn a fifth straight win against the Wildcats (1-1), who could roll three quarterbacks into this game.

Though he hasn’t exactly lit it up, Ben Bryant remains the starter. But expect Jack Lausch and Ryan Hilinski to get on the field after all three played roles in touchdowns last week.

A Cincinnati transfer, Bryant has 285 yards passing with two interceptions against one touchdown. He threw for a score and ran for one in last weekend's UTEP win before leaving with an unspecified injury, though interim coach David Braun said he is expected to play.

Lausch scored on a 6-yard run on Northwestern’s first possession last week and broke off a 46-yard dash that led to a late touchdown. Hilinski also had a scoring pass, helping Northwestern come away with the win after losing 18 of 19 games.

“Ben Bryant is our starting quarterback and we plan for that to continue to be the case,” Braun said. “We’re finding ways to get Jack involved just with his athleticism, his playmaking ability. To speak on the multiple quarterbacks, I don’t want to go without mentioning Ryan — his ability to come in with poise, operate the offense and show up with just a ton of passion.”


Duke has found plenty of success with the run to start the season.

The Blue Devils ran for 199 yards and two touchdowns in the Clemson win, led by Riley Leonard's 98 yards — 44 coming on a tackle-breaking keeper TD — along with 63 from Jordan Waters and 43 from Jaquez Moore.

Waters followed that with a career-best effort against Lafayette, running for 112 yards and two scores last week. Moore also ran for 72 yards on just 10 carries. And Leonard's mobility is always a threat.


Northwestern went from having no sacks in a season-opening loss to Rutgers to four last week against UTEP. The Wildcats also intercepted three passes after picking off none.

“It’s no coincidence that both of those showed up, they tend to show up together,” Braun said. “More pressure on the quarterback, more opportunities to attack the ball in the air with quarterbacks making ill-advised decisions. Good coverage, stressed out quarterback that holds on to the football, more opportunities for sacks.”


Duke has allowed no sacks over the past three games going back to last year's Military Bowl win against UCF. Northwestern has allowed seven through two games, accounting for 49 yards lost.


Elko has won 11 of 15 games in his one-plus seasons so far as Duke's coach. That's the best start to a head-coaching tenure in program history, with Elko's winning percentage (.733) surpassing the mark of Bill Murray (10-4-1, .700) in 1951-52.


Duke leads the all-time series 12-10 and has won four straight going back to 2017, including wins in 2018 and each of the past two seasons. Northwestern had won three straight before that in 2008, 2015 and 2016.


AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.


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