Redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones fired two touchdown passes and ran for a third.
On the next play, Duke junior wide receiver TJ Rahming got behind the Northern Illinois secondary and Jones lofted a pass perfectly into the end zone that Rahming caught for a 33-yard touchdown play. The Blue Devils also yielded almost 80 fewer yards per week than last season, finishing third in that category in the ACC (335.4 yards per game).
"We let up for a little while, and they took advantage of our mistakes", Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris said. The Huskies are no strangers to Detroit and Ford Field, playing here in six consecutive MAC championship games from 2010-15, winning three times. The Northern Illinois Huskies have lost each of their last four bowl appearances.
Marcus Childers threw for 234 yards and a touchdown for the Huskies (8-5).
The Blue Devils took control of the game in the first quarter, scoring two touchdowns before Northern Illinois collected a first down. Spencer Tears and Chad Beebe have combined for 878 receiving yards and five touchdowns while Christian Blake has 38 receptions.
In the backfield, Jordan Huff leads the team with 761 yards plus four touchdowns, while Childers has rushed for five scores and a number of backs have chipped in as well.
Both teams give up 20.8 points per game, meanwhile, with the Huskies giving up slightly less yards per game (328 to 335.4). Northern Illinois sophomore DE Sutton Smith became just the second consensus All-American in school history.More news: After Christmas, holiday shopping season continues
The Blue Devils are 19-6-1 ATS in their last 26 non-conference games, 13-1 ATS in their last 14 games on fieldturf and 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games overall.
Neither team really stands out ATS this season as NIU was 6-6 and Duke was 6-5-1. Prior to this streak of success under coach David Cutcliffe, Duke had just five winning seasons from 1975-2012.
That came courtesy of Northern Illinois in the first quarter, as the punter ran one of the worst fake punts you'll ever see.
For the ACC, Duke comes in having won its last two games to get bowl eligible at 6-6.
Duke's defense pushed Northern Illinois back to the 22-yard line, and a low snap on the ensuing field goal try doomed the Huskies' chances of trimming the deficit to single digits.
"After hosting college bowl games for almost three decades at their home stadium, the Detroit Lions wanted to take part in the tradition by bringing their own bowl game to Ford Field".