Duke v GT: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Duke showed signs of life on Saturday, taking a lead into halftime against a Georgia Tech team that has appeared in several top 25 polls throughout the season. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils suffered a 10 minute stretch that proved to be their demise. TDD examines the game.

What went right?

The Blue Devil ground game was able to have success against a very good Georgia Tech defense. Duke mustered 181 yards rushing, and had two different running backs, Justin Boyle and Ronnie Drummer, with at least 70 yards. On the other side of the ball, the Duke defense played very well in spurts, keeping the Devils close for much of the game. They were also able to produce a goal-line stand to temporarily stem the Tech offensive momentum. The defense also proved to be somewhat opportunistic, producing a fumble recovery and an interception. Duke played a valiant opening half and actually held a 10-7 advantage at halftime. That was their first halftime lead against a division one opponent this season.

What went wrong?

To put it mildly, the Duke passing game was out of sync. The Devils completed a putrid 9 of 30 passes, with different players taking turns dropping passes, overthrowing receivers and running poor routes. For the most part, the offensive line gave quarterback Zack Asack time to throw the ball. Unfortunately for Duke, he had big trouble delivering the ball on target. Because of their struggles, the offense gave Georgia Tech great field position most of the day. They also handed Tech two easy scores with an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble on their own one-yard line. The fumble was probably the play of the game, as Duke seemed to have seized the momentum after a heroic goal-line stand.

TDD player of the game:

Georgia Tech's all-American wide receiver Calvin Johnson had a respectable game, catching four balls for 76 yards. His impact on the game, however, was minimal thanks to the outstanding pass coverage of Duke's John Talley. After struggling with his coverage early in the season, Talley has really turned his game up a notch as the season has progress. He is now what Duke fans thought he would be at the beginning of the season, a potential all-conference cornerback. He defended 3 passes on the evening, coming up with his team leading 4th interception of the year. He now has 10 in his career as is the ACC's active leader in picks. For his great coverage, Talley is this week's TDD player of the game.

Honorable mention goes to Duke outside linebacker Brendan Dewan. The 5th year senior led the team with 10 solo tackles and 11 overall, and made some key open field tackles to thwart potential big plays for Tech.

Final Analysis:

This game boils down to one simple fact: Once again, Duke showed that they cannot pass the ball effectively against ACC-level competition. The quarterback is getting time and the receivers are getting open, but for some reason the passing game is not clicking. Duke QB Zack Asack struggled mightily delivering the ball to open receivers, and made some poor throwing choices when he did let it fly. On both interceptions, he forced throws into coverage when there were other open receivers that he could have checked to. Of course, the blame does not completely lie with Asack. He had several nice passes dropped, and one of his interceptions was aided by a poor route by his target receiver.

For a team that cannot throw the ball, Duke was able to do a few things running the ball. Justin Boyle was relentless in gaining his team-high 88 yards rushing. Fellow Sophomore Ronnie Drummer flashed his big play potential once again with separate runs of 50 and 20 yards. Even true freshman Clifford Harris showed his mettle gaining 25 yards on 4 carries. Even with senior Ced Dargan unavailable to play due to injury running back is proving to be a position of strength for Duke. Still with all of Duke's success on the ground, you cannot win games in the ACC unless you have success throwing the ball. Until the Devils fix this part of the offense, they will continue their season long struggle to score points.

Looking Ahead:

The Devils will get no time to lick their wounds this week, as they play host to the dangerous Florida State Seminoles. The Noles will be looking to take their frustrations out of someone, as they dropped their first contest of the season last week at the hands of Virginia. The Duke offense will face possibly their sternest challenge of the season. The FSU defense is fast and mean, and are one of the nation's best. Defensively, Duke will face a freshman QB in Drew Weatherford. He has had his ups and downs so far this season, but has shown recent signs that he is ready to breakout. Hopefully for Duke fans, this metamorphosis will wait for another day. Still, the Blue Devil offense will need to figure out a way to throw the ball against the Seminoles. Otherwise, FSU's quarterback struggles will not change the fact that it will be another long day for the Blue Devil offense.


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