The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets lost one quarter and tied one before barely edging the Duke Blue Devils 35-10 Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C., in front of 17,451 rabid Duke supporters.
Despite a Heisman-worthy passing performance by Duke freshman quarterback Zack Asack (9 for 28, 2 interceptions, 90 yards), the Jackets were able to hold on to a slim 25-point lead for the entire fourth quarter. The Jackets, hiding behind the excuse of injuries to quarterback Reggie Ball (hand, hip) and tailback P. J. Daniels (shoulder), failed to put the game away in the final quarter, but were fortunate enough to escape the dreaded Wading Pool with a win.
Tech coach Chan Gailey attempted to spin the Duke moral victory as simply a conference road win that improved his team's record to 4-2, 2-2 ACC.
"How did you get in this locker room?" Gailey allegedly said. "Aren't you supposed to have some sort of press credential?"
Gailey refused to tell this reporter why his team was so flat, listless, ineffectual and apparently coached by drug-addled monkeys in the first half, which ended in a 10-7 Duke triumph.
In the first two quarters, the Devils repeatedly sucked the Jacket defense into falling for the old three-and-out trap, springing their patented roughing-the-kicker play to roll up big yardage. Two such "penalties" resulted in 10 Devil points, set up by a Ball fumble in one case, and a 50-yard Ronnie Drummer run off a reverse in the other.
Drummer, who had an 81-yard rush against Miami last week, was the Devils' ground workhorse, totaling 70 yards on three carries. Even without Drummer's gaudy numbers, the rest of the Duke's rushing attack accounted for 111 yards on 40 carries, a glistening 2.8 yards per carry.
Tech, in contrast, accounted for a mere 257 yards on 47 rushes, led by backup tailback Tashard Choice's 107 yards on 15 carries. Significantly, Choice was not actually recruited by Gailey, but wound up at Georgia Tech by accident after transferring from Oklahoma because of a family illness.
Tech's perennial disappointment at quarterback Ball completed only 64 percent of his 25 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown to James Johnson. Ball typically allowed a pass to be tipped for an interception at the Duke 13, preventing the Jackets from winning the crucial first half.
Ball and sub Taylor Bennett failed to get super-soph Calvin Johnson the touchdown catch he needed to compete for the Biletnikoff Award, hitting him only four times for 73 yards and no touchdowns. Ball and Choice selfishly hogged the ball, with Ball rushing for one, and Choice two of the Jackets' scores.
Tech limped out of the locker room at halftime and through sheer luck scored four touchdowns in a little over six minutes. The Jackets were helped by referees' claims that Duke fumbled on their 1-yard line. And Tech defensive end Darrell Robertson tried to make up for his lack of pass rush by intercepting a Zack pass at the Duke 28 and running it in for a touchdown.
Tech's kickoff team continued to struggle, with freshman Mohamed Yahiaoui putting only five of six kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Field goal kicker Travis Bell, bedeviled by five straight misses, didn't even make an attempt against Duke.
Gailey, typically playing not to lose, allowed Duke to roll up 80 of their 271 yards of total offense in the decisive fourth quarter. Bennett, considered by some to be the quarterback of the future whose development is being stifled by Gailey's insistence on playing Ball, completed half of his two passes for three yards, a number held down by the receivers' Ball bias.
Tech's deservedly criticized offensive line gave up no sacks, and recovered a Damarius Bilbo fumble, but typically failed to turn that recovery into a touchdown.
The close win over a 1-6, 0-0 Duke team leaves Tech grasping for good things to talk about, coming into next week's expected loss to Miami in the Orange Bowl. Gailey was coy when asked whether he would, as a significant portion of the Tech fan base advocates, stay home and just forfeit to avoid more injuries in a game that he couldn't possibly win.
"Are you still here?" Gailey allegedly told this reporter. "Security!"
The Associated Press, ESPN.com, CBSSportsline.com, Collegefootballnews.com, the Macon Telegraph's Brian Murphy, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Rana Cash, Mike Knobler and Jack Williamson all contributed (unwittingly) to this report.