Duke used a big day from quarterback Thomas Jones and a baffling fake punt attempt to roll past Northern Illinois for a 36-14 win in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.
Trailing 7-0 with 4:32 to play in the first quarter, Northern Illinois punter Matt Ference trotted onto the field for what everyone thought would be a boot from his own end zone. Everyone but him, that is.
Instead, Ference decided to pass. It was fourth and 18.
Duke (7-6) took over at the NIU 11-yard line and needed three plays to score, a 1-yard Shaun Wilson run that gave the Blue Devils a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game.
Northern Illinois (8-5) struck back with two quick scoring drives. The first was a 2-play, 68-yard drive that saw Marcus Childers hit Spencer Tears for a 43-yard gain and then Tre Harbison score on a 25-yard rush. After forcing a three-and-out, the Huskies tied the game on a 67-yard strike from Childers to Jauan Wesley, knotting the score at 14-14 with 12:22 left in the first half.
Duke re-gained the lead on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to T.J. Rahming, but William Holmquist‘s PAT missed. The Blue Devils pushed their lead back to two scores with an 11-yard swing pass from Jones to Wilson with 1:33 left before the break, but Jones’s 2-point pass was intercepted in the end zone.
Jones fumbled at the NIU 31-yard line to open the second half, but atoned for the mistake by leading an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 7-yard Brittain Brown run that put the Blue Devils up 33-14 at the 6:58 mark of the third quarter. Duke ended any chance of a Hail Mary comeback with a 16-play drive that consumed the entire first half of the fourth quarter, ending in a 24-yard Holmquist field goal to push the lead to 22. Derrick Tangelo all but ended the game with a sack of Childers on 4th-and-5 from midfield with six and a half minutes remaining.
Jones finished the game hitting 27-of-40 throws for 252 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 16 times for a game-high 86 yards and a touchdown. Wilson and Brown combined to carry 29 times for 116 yards and two additional scores. Childers completed 15-of-26 passes for 234 yards with a touchdown and no picks, and Harbison rushed 13 times for 59 yards and a touchdown.
The win handed Duke its fifth bowl victory ever, and just its second since 1962. Northern Illinois dropped to 0-5 in bowl games under head coach Rod Carey. Not surprisingly, this was the first all-time meeting between the Blue Devils and the Huskies.