The Huskies lost to Duke Tuesday in Detroit.

DETROIT - Duke University scored the last 22 points of the game and shut out Northern Illinois University in the second half to claim the 2017 Quick Lane Bowl Championship with a 36-14 victory Tuesday at Ford Field in Detroit.


NIU finished the season 8-5 overall and went 6-2 in the MAC to record its seventh eight-win season in the past eight years.  Duke won its final three games of the year to finish 7-6 overall.


“The kids played hard, we just didn’t execute well enough,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey.  “Certainly feel like if we would have executed, the outcome could have been different, but we didn’t. 


“It’s disappointing for the seniors to see them go out like this because they poured a lot into this program.  I’m proud of the way they battled back. We’re in a bowl game, we won eight games, we were in two championship games [for the MAC West and for the Quick Lane Bowl] and unfortunately we came up short in those two games. Certainly to be in that position coming off of last year is something those seniors can take with them for a long time.”


Senior safety Mycial Allen, a Detroit native, and linebacker Jawuan Johnson led the Huskie defensive effort with 12 tackles each.  Johnson made a career high 4.5 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles, one of which was recovered by defensive tackle Devin Webster.


On offense, the Huskies were held to 65 net yards rushing, including minus five in the second half, and the Huskies converted just one-of-18 third and fourth down tries, including 0-for-6 on fourth down.  Duke possessed the ball for 38:21 overall, and squashed any hopes of a Huskie comeback by controlling the ball for 13:12 in the fourth quarter.  The Blue Devils ran 92 plays to the Huskies’ 57.


NIU redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers completed 15-of-26 passes for 234 yards, including completions of 67, 42 and 43 yards to Jauan Wesley and Spencer Tears, respectively.  Childers’ passing total was his most since the Nov. 2 game versus Toledo.  Wesley caught two passes for 109 yards to lead the NIU offense, while redshirt freshman Tre Harbison totaled a career-high 59 rushing yards on 13 carries.


With tight end Shane Wimann, wide receiver Chad Beebe and tailback Jordan Huff – all seniors -  out of the line-up due to injury, the NIU offense featured just one senior starter in wide receiver Christian Blake.


Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, completed 27-of-40 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns and ran 16 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. 


Duke took a 7-0 lead with 5:53 to play in the first quarter on a one-yard run by Jones.  The Blue Devils drove 58 yards on 10 plays on their second possession of the game to take 7-0.  After NIU punter Matt Ference’s pass attempt went incomplete from the Huskies’ 11-yard line, Duke took three plays to double its lead on a one-yard run by Shaun Wilson with 3:12 on the clock in the first quarter.


After being held to two first downs and 46 yards of offense in the first quarter, NIU came back to tie the game in the first three minutes of the second period on a pair of two-play drives.  Senior Jackson Abresch got a piece of Duke punter William Holmquist’s punt on the first play of the quarter, forcing a 24-yard effort.  From the NIU 32, Childers hit Spencer Tears with a 43-yard completion to the Duke 25 and Tre Harbison scored from there to put the Huskies on the board. Hagan’s PAT made it 14-7 Duke with 14:15 to play in the quarter.


The Huskie defense forced a three-and-out, and NIU started its next drive on its 31-yard line.  A Childers rush netted two yards before he hit Wesley deep, and the junior juked one defender and ran in for the 67-yard score. With 12:22 to play in the third quarter, the score was tied, 14-14.


Despite forcing a three-and-out on Duke’s next possession, the Blue Devils came back with two scores before halftime to take a 26-14 lead at the break.  Jones converted a pair of third downs rushing and then hit T.J. Rahming for a 33-yard score with 6:02 on the clock.  The PAT was missed, and Duke led 20-14. 


NIU went three-and-out on offense and Jones led the Blue Devils on another scoring drive, completing three passes for 32 yards into NIU territory and connecting with running back Shaun Wilson on an 11-yard pass for the score. Duke’s two-point try was intercepted and they took a 12-point lead into halftime.


The Huskies missed a golden opportunity to make it a one-score game early in the third quarter.  NIU’s Johnson forced Jones to fumble and Devin Webster recovered at the NIU 29.  From there, Childers’ 42-yard completion to Wesley put NIU on the Duke 18, but three plays lost four yards and a bad snap on the field goal try gave Duke the ball with no change in the score.


The Blue Devils then drove 67 yards in 11 plays and four minutes to go ahead 33-14 on a seven-yard run by Brittain Brown with 6:50 to play in the third quarter.


NIU got into Duke territory on its next drive thanks in part to a 41-yard kickoff return by D.J. Brown, and advanced to the Blue Devils’ 33-yard line before a pass on fourth and three fell incomplete. 


While the defense gamely fought to keep Duke out of the end zone in the fourth quarter, limited the Blue Devils to a field goal despite being on the field most of the quarter, the NIU offense was not able to move past the 50-yard line and the game ended with the 36-14 final.


“Give Duke a lot of credit, they ran the ball, converted on third down when they had to, and the quarterback ran it as well to pick up some key first downs,” Carey said. “There were flashes for us [in the passing game] and in the run game at times, but not enough.” 

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