In position to secure bowl eligibility against a Duke team that had lost six consecutive games, Georgia Tech failed in stunning fashion, losing 43-20 to the Blue Devils Saturday. Duke, which had not averaged 12.2 points and 286 yards in its losing streak, hit a season scoring high for the season against FBS competition and finished with 500 yards. Tech (5-5 overall, 4-4 ACC) will need to defeat No. 7 Georgia to secure bowl eligibility.
With effective blocking on the interior and perimeter, Georgia Tech piled up 239 rushing yards on 35 carries, but Duke bottled up the Yellow Jackets after that. In the first half, the Jackets put together touchdown drives of 12, 10 and 12 plays, indication of their play-to-play consistency. On keepers and draws, quarterback TaQuon Marshall cleared 100 yards in the first half, becoming the first Tech quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Joshua Nesbitt in 2009. He was also effective making decisions in the option. However, Tech was stunningly ineffective in the second half, as the Jackets ran 12 times for 38 yards.
Marshall made the first big play of the game, hanging in the pocket and taking a big hit just after releasing a 35-yard touchdown pass to A-back Qua Searcy on a 3rd-and-12 on the opening possession of the game. Duke defensive end Victor Dimukeje tipped and intercepted a Marshall screen pass, which set up a Duke field goal. In the third quarter, trying to pick up a 3rd-and-8 while down 30-20, Marshall was unable to connect with wide receiver Ricky Jeune on a deep ball down the sideline – pass interference could have been called – and the failure to convert set the stage for a Duke touchdown drive that put the Blue Devils up 36-20.
Marshall was 3-for-13 for 82 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Duke’s line consistently turned aside Tech defensive linemen on runs up the middle and sealed off the edge on runs to the perimeter. Blue Devils running back Brittain Brown from Canton, who came into the game averaging 51.1 yards per game, racked up a career-high 116 yards. Brown was practically unstoppable, cutting sharply and slipping away from tackles. Duke’s success running the ball – 319 rushing yards – was in stark contrast to its play in recent weeks. The Blue Devils had not cleared 131 rushing yards in their past five games, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. A week after limiting Virginia Tech to 105 rushing yards, the Jackets had few answers.
The picture wasn’t much better here, either. Quarterback Daniel Jones enjoyed one of the best games of his career, completing 18 of 26 passes for 177 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Jones largely threw from safe pockets and to open receivers. He escaped danger when cornerback Step Durham was in position to intercept him in the end zone in the first quarter but couldn’t secure the ball, enabling Duke to pick up a field goal. His best throw might have been on a 27-yard gain to wide receiver Johnathan Lloyd in the third quarter into tight coverage by cornerback Lawrence Austin. Tech played its sixth game of the season without an interception.
The Jackets didn’t get a boost. On eight kickoff returns, Tech advanced one past its 25-yard line, and that was when Duke kicked off from its 20 after a penalty on the previous touchdown play. A last-gasp fake punt try failed. A point-after try failed.
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