Perhaps the worst quarter of the season put Georgia Tech in a hole that it couldn’t escape. The Yellow Jackets were outgained by Duke 198 yards to five in the third quarter and outscored 10-0, leading the way to their 43-20 loss to the Blue Devils Saturday.
Duke ran 29 plays to six for Tech (two three-and-outs), wearing out the Tech defense and moving from a 20-20 halftime tie to a 30-20 lead going into the fourth quarter.
In a game where, in the parlance of coach Paul Johnson, you couldn’t miss a turn, the Jackets missed twice, going three-and-out on back-to-back possessions to start the half. Duke, playing markedly better on offense than it had in recent weeks, kept firing, driving for a touchdown and a field goal and wearing out the Tech defense.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe said that the third quarter “may have been as good looking of a quarter of football (as) we could play.”
On the two possessions, Tech missed opportunities, not making blocks in the run game, not protecting quarterback TaQuon Marshall on a third-down pass play and perhaps missing a read in the option game. Marshall couldn’t connect on a couple deep shots, and the end result was two punts after a total of five yards gained.
“I made some bad plays,” Marshall said. “I threw some bad balls. That probably could have helped us out. We’d get behind the chains or something, it’d be something like 2nd-and-9, couldn’t really do much after that. But they ran the same thing second half.”
On the Jackets’ first four possessions, not counting a throwaway drive to end the first half, the Jackets scored three touchdowns and gained 276 yards on 38 plays and converted six of seven third downs. Tech was shut out in the second half, the first time that the Jackets have failed to score in a half this season. The Jackets gained 83 yards and were 0-for-5 on third down after the half.
Marshall said that Duke was effective at forcing him back to the middle.
“I noticed that a lot; I couldn’t really get outside on the edge to pitch the ball to the A-back,” Marshall said. “They had the A-back covered up a couple times.”
Defensively, Tech was getting pummeled. The Jackets were unable to get off blocks on runs to the perimeter. Running back Brittain Brown was having a field day breaking tackles. Quarterback Daniel Jones threw from comfortable pockets. The Blue Devils kept up their torrid pace from the first half, facing just one third down in their first two possessions of the second half. That one should have been a touchdown, but Jones threw off target to running back Shaun Wilson on a 3rd-and-goal play.
Duke drove 75 yards on the opening drive for a touchdown and a 27-20 lead, then 64 yards for a field goal and a 30-20 lead on its second series.
“(Defensive coordinator Ted Roof) put us in great position,” cornerback Lawrence Austin said. “I myself didn’t play a good game, so I take the blame for that, but the players on the field have to make the play, and we didn’t make the plays (Saturday).”
Johnson said that after Duke scored on the opening possession and Tech followed with a three-and-out, “that was pretty much it. At least we held them to a field goal the next time. We try to hit a play-action pass because they were firing out of the secondary and we couldn’t make a play. We had to punt and then we’re down 17.”
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