Duke tight ends rough up Jackets

Duke tight end Daniel Helm caught a team-high six passes against Georgia Tech on Saturday, October 29, 2016. SPECIAL/Daniel Varnado

Among the many flaws in Georgia Tech’s defensive play Saturday was an inability to cover Duke’s tight ends. The Blue Devils’ trio of tight ends — Daniel Helm, Davis Koppenhaver and Erich Schneider — caught 12 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns.

“I guess we weren’t covering ’em,” coach Paul Johnson said.

Tech had a matchup problem covering Duke’s tight ends. The Jackets’ nickel back is Lawrence Austin, who at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds has a tough time covering tight ends who line up in the slot and can have six inches and 50 pounds or more on him. Tech also tried linebacker Brant Mitchell, but he was not able to keep up with the tight ends, either.

It was part of Duke’s plan to use the tight end in the passing game.

“When you (media) guys asked me this week how we would go about it, and who it was, I kept in the end saying, ‘Well, the tight ends will have something to do with it,’” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.

Helm was particularly troublesome, with six catches for 72 yards and two touchdown receptions. Helm’s previous career-best game was a three-catch, 31-yard game against Northwestern earlier this season.

Eight of the 12 catches either produced first downs or went for touchdowns. The last was a 7-yard touchdown pass to Helm that put the Blue Devils in the lead 35-31 with 8:55 to play, their first lead of the game. On a play that flowed to the right, Helm snuck out to the left and was wide open for a pass from quarterback Daniel Jones.

Safety Corey Griffin said a communication error created a mix-up on the play. He said that a play call was changed from the sideline late in the pre-snap sequence, and he was trying to signal it to safety A.J. Gray as the ball was snapped.

“My eyes go in the backfield, my man’s gone, leaked out to the backside,” Griffin said. “They throw it for a touchdown.”

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