From the stands: Duke v. Georgia Tech

The Blue Devils went down to Georgia and upset the 22nd ranked Yellow Jackets 31-25 on Saturday afternoon. Here’s our take on the big victory.

THE GROUND ATTACK…

Leading into the game there was quite a lot of publicity payed to the ground attack of Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets, who use Paul Johnson’s combination of option play and cut blocking schemes, entered the contest averaging just under 300 yards per game on the ground. And, against Duke, they rolled up another 282, but that wasn’t the story.

Instead the stat that jumps out of the final book is Duke’s 242 yards on 47 rushing attempts. An average of 5.1 yards per carry with three players running for 50 or more yards. It began with senior Josh Snead posting a season high 104 yards on 14 carries - proving once again that Duke’s stable of backs can hurt you in a number of ways as yet another Blue Devil was the team’s best threat on the ground. Taking the reigns from Snead was second year back Joseph Ajeigbe who finished with 53 yards on just eight carries, but would have finished with 9 carries for 99 yards were it not for a 46 yard scamper being negated by a holding penalty.

Whereas the game against Miami featured a balanced play calling program, the strategy against Georgia Tech was to allow the veteran Duke offensive line to continually grind against the Yellow Jackets’ defense. Once the ground game was established, Duke proceeded to pick and choose spots through the air with quarterback Anthony Boone playing the sort of mistake free football he displayed last season during Duke’s historic winning streak.

And, speaking of Boone, the fifth year senior added 10 rushes for 54 yards of his own including a 17 yard rush that set up Duke’s final touchdown. All told, the entire offense seemed much more comfortable by establishing the running game and letting the passing attack build from there. Establishing the run also allowed Duke to possess the ball for nearly half the game, whereas Georgia Tech’s strategy through five games had been to monopolize the football with constant running in an attempt to wear down the opposing defense.


THE DEFENSE PLAYED WELL

In addition to only being on the field for half the game, the defense made a number of key plays utilizing the now familiar bend but don’t break approach. Down two of their top defensive linemen, Duke got a big boost from the second and third line of tacklers with the defensive backfield accounting for the top four spots in the book (Devon Edwards 8, Jeremy Cash and Breon Borders with 7 apiece, and Deondre Singleton with six).

The defensive front held when it needed to and the second line of the defense shot through the various gaps created by Georgia Tech and adjusted for by the Duke defensive line. The Blue Devils played to their assignments and stayed, for the most part, extremely tight with them.

Not only were the Blue Devils able to limit their opponent’s ground attack, Duke also forced three turnovers, which were likely the difference in the game.

Checking the box score really doesn’t tell the entire tale of this one, however. Mainly because Duke was up 31-12 with less than six minutes to go. At that point there were some noticeable chop blocks along the line, one of which resulted in starter Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo being helped to the sideline. Certainly the Jackets capitalized as Duke let up and played more to end the game without any significant injuries, but Georgia Tech’s box score is benefitted hugely by 18 plays and 162 yards of meaningless face saving.

That’s not, however, to take away from the very well executed onside kick recoveries by Ryan Smith - the latter of which put the game away and allowed Boone to go into victory formation.


NOTEWORTHY STATISTICS

- Ross Martin remains perfect on the season by going 1-for-1 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra point attempts.

- Will Monday averaged 44.3 yards per kick including one 61 yard bomb. It’s his eighth punt of more than 50 yards on the season out of 27 total punts.

- Oddly enough, Georgia Tech out-passed Duke 201-131. However, most of that came during the final two drives after Duke had a three score lead.

- After being brutal against Miami on third down chances, Duke posted a respectable 6-of-13 mark against Georgia Tech.

- Coach Montgomery’s red-zone attack was nearly perfect, netting points on all five chances, four of which were touchdowns.


GOING FORWARD

Duke sits at 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the ACC. Next week is huge as the Blue Devils will host Virginia at Wallace Wade Stadium. Following the game against the Cavaliers the Blue Devils will go on the road for a pair of winnable contests against Pittsburgh and Syracuse before a three game home stand to end the season against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest.

What’s interesting is that Duke controls its own destiny when it comes to returning to Charlotte for a (likely) rematch with Florida State in the ACC Championship game. The Blue Devils’ only loss was to Miami, which sits at 1-2 on the season in the league. Winning out puts Duke in Charlotte. Again.

Going just 1-5 overall in those games would net the Blue Devils a third consecutive bowl game. Finishing .500 would leave Duke 8-4 on the season and likely in the Belk Bowl or similar.


THEY SAID IT

“First of all, we were winning the battle of the line of scrimmage. We blocked well. Hats off to our offensive front. Coach Latina and Coach Montgomery called a good game. I thought our adjustments were really good at halftime, anticipating what we thought we might see from them. Sometimes you’re able to do that, and sometimes you’re not. And then Anthony (Boone) managed the game very well. He played really well.” - Coach Cutcliffe

“Those guys just wanted it more than us. We knew what was at stake and they knew what was at stake. They went out there and played their butts off and we’re able to come out with the win. I give credit where it’s due.” - Georgia Tech LB Quayshawn Nealy on Duke.


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