Saturday Lookback: Duke v GT

Reviewing the Blue Devils' 30-20 setback in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets and looking forward to the season finale next week.

The Blue Devils have noted their progress all season. They insist it is evident even though they will have fewer wins this season than in 2009.

Duke has been in numerous games in the fourth quarter, so -- mostly by avoiding blowouts -- that's a sign of improvement. But the Blue Devils will need to win more of these close games to make seasons memorable.

For the second week in a row, they were in position to pull even or take a lead in the fourth quarter and failed do so. The latest example resulted in a 30-20 loss Saturday at Georgia Tech, leaving Duke with a 3-8 record with one game remaining.

Finishing drives in the fourth quarter will be another topic that needs to be addressed. The Blue Devils entered Georgia Tech territory on their last two possessions and came away without any points. This followed a failed fourth-down conversion near the goal line with a chance to take the lead a week earlier against Boston College.

These past two results fall into similar categories of those against Wake Forest and Maryland.

Coach David Cutcliffe has been adamant that the Blue Devils are close to putting together something special. But now it's a matter of finishing the task because the Blue Devils aren't comfortable with these so-called moral victories.

Duke failed to win a conference road game this year.

--K Will Snyderwine's streak of successful field goals ended at 18 when he missed a fourth-quarter attempt of 33 yards that would have tied the game at Georgia Tech with more than nine minutes remaining. It was a strange game for Snyderwine, who earlier booted a career-long 52-yarder. Late in the game, the redshirt junior missed from 54 yards, so he carries a new streak into the season finale with back-to-back misses.

--LB Kelby Brown recovered his fourth fumble of the season, and he didn't even play until the third game. He's the first Duke player to notch four fumble recoveries in a season since Terrell Smith in 2002.

GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Sean Renfree -- He was mostly on target again by completing 31 of 40 attempts without an interception. He spread the ball around, completing passes to seven different receivers. He also avoided trouble most of the time, suffering only one sack.

KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Brandon Connette -- He continues to be a threat running the ball, often in short-yardage situations. Connette's 20-yard touchdown run at Georgia Tech gives him seven rushing touchdowns, which is a school record for a freshman.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Every single practice, we're preaching ball security, ball security." -- QB Brandon Connette, on the emphasis on taking care of the ball. The Blue Devils fumbled five times against Georgia Tech, although they lost only one.


LOOKING GOOD: S Matt Daniels caused a fumble against Georgia Tech, marking the third forced fumble of the season for the junior who is strong in run support. Daniels will have different types of responsibilities in the next game against North Carolina, which has a more balanced offense that what Georgia Tech uses.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The rushing defense has been an issue throughout the season and more needs to be done along the front line. The Blue Devils yielded 320 yards to Georgia Tech, which ranks atop the nation in rushing yards. But given that the Blue Devils knew what was coming, they would have liked to have put up a stiffer challenge along the line of scrimmage. Georgia Tech held the ball for the game's final 5:50 when the Blue Devils were unable to make a defensive stop.

--DE Patrick Egboh was slow in getting started this season in the sack department, but he notched two sacks against Georgia Tech. That gives him at least one sack in three of the last four games.

--QB Sean Renfree hasn't thrown an interception in the past four games. His streak of passes without a pick has grown to 157, the third-longest span in school history.

--TE Cooper Helfet made his first career start in the game at Georgia Tech. He became the fourth player to hold a starting job at that position this season for the Blue Devils.

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