Posted: 11:16 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013
Georgia Tech continued its decade-long dominance of Duke with a convincing 38-14 win over the Blue Devils Saturday afternoon.
Duke safety Jeremy Cash summed up the game; “they played better than we did. It’s as simple as that.”
The statistics back up that statement. Georgia Tech kept the ball for 17 more minutes than Duke, much of that differential coming in the second half. The Yellow Jackets converted 11 of 17 third-downs, Duke a woeful 3 of 14.
David Cutcliffe conceded the obvious. “They won the third and fourth down matchups. We got beaten badly there.”
Duke quarterback Brandon Connette fell on his metaphorical sword, “It was just me being inaccurate on third down. Missing guys that were open, a little behind or a little low. I need to be more accurate.”
But Connette wasn’t on the field as the Georgia Tech offense gashed Duke for 469 yards. Duke forced only two punts and Ross Cockrell picked off Vad Lee late in the first half, the 10th interception of his career. Freshman Harrison Butker missed two field goals; he made his first.
Georgia Tech’s offense is designed to produce a series of third-and-shorts, keep the chains moving and the clock running and debilitate opposing defenses. They did all that. But they also displayed a fast-strike capability.
A quick drive at the end of the first half and a long drive at the beginning of the second salted away a game that many–myself included–thought would be more competitive.
Duke spotted Tech a 3-0 lead but answered with a 9-play, 72-yard scoring drive, two passes and seven rushes, most by Jela Duncan. Duncan scores from a yard out, the last of his 35-rushing yards on that drive.
The visitors regained the lead on a 7-play, 79 yard drive. Tony Zenon converted a third and two from the Tech 29 and Robert Godhigh exploited a huge hole off his left side and rumbled 44 yards to the Duke 4.
Vad Lee walked in on first down from the 4. Butker’s PAT put Tech up 10-7, with 6:04 left in the first quarter.
Duke marched back down the field, Connette hitting Isaac Blakeney for 21 and 20 yards. Following three runs, Duke faced fourth and inches from the Tech 20.
Cutcliffe said he thought about sending Ross Martin out for the tie but opted not to. “I thought we needed a touchdown. They just whipped us at the line of scrimmage.”
Duncan was stuffed up the middle and Tech took over.
Tech extended the lead with another long scoring drive, 64 yards worth in 10 plays. Duke jumped off-sides on a fourth-down attempt and Lee connected with DeAndre Smelter on third and 12 from the Duke 24,
Smelter is a former Tech baseball player and this was his first career reception.
Still, it appeared that Duke would go into the locker room down only 17-7 after Cockrell intercepted Lee. But Duke was forced to punt and a 15-yard facemask penalty gave Tech a short field.
Butker missed a field goal but Duke couldn’t move the ball and kicked it back. Tech took over at their 26, with 1:44 left in the half. Lee accounted for all 74 yards, either by run or pass, the last 10 another scoring strike to Smelter.
Any chances Duke had evaporated early in the third quarter, 7:44 worth of the third quarter, to be exact. Tech converted four third downs on the opening possession of the second half, three exactly third and two, the other a third and 11 back on the Tech 38.
Lee hit Godhigh for the score, from 13 yards out.
“I think we were aligned properly,” Kenny Anunike said. “I guess some guys didn’t fully go through their assignment and get to the ball. We just didn’t get it done. We just didn’t completely finish this game. It’s pure assignment football. That’s the spread option.. It’s a numbers game. They like to play with your defense, see where you’re lining up and they’re going to switch the play at the line of scrimmage and go ahead and run the play. If one guy is out of position or gets blocked, they can gain a lot of yards quickly.”
By the time Duke got the ball, more than half the third quarter was over and Duke was down 31-7. Duke never quit and did manage a second score. Connette running in from 7 yards out, to make the score 31-14. Tech put together a six-minute drive, which ended with Lee’s fourth scoring pass, this one to Zach Laskey from the Duke 19.
Duke had an 8:44 to 6:16 advantage in time of possession after one quarter. Over the final three quarters, Tech had a 32 to 13 advantage. Duke ran only nine plays in the fourth quarter.
Duke senior Juwan Thompson rushed for 19 yards, giving him 1,012 for his career. He becomes the 40th Duke player to rush for over 1,000 yards.
Jela Duncan rushed for 89 yards for Duke, his career high.
Kelby Brown had a career-high 17 tackles. Jeremy Cash also had a career high, with 14 tackles.
Will Monday’s 72-yard punt in the second quarter is the 10th longest in Duke history.
Vad Lee’s four touchdown passes are the most by any Tech player in the Paul Johnson era.
by Jim Sumner