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Final Score: Cutcliffe, Blue Devils thump Yellow Jackets, 43-20

The Jackets squandered a great opportunity to attain bowl eligibility, falling by three scores in Durham.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

With 2:09 left in the first half, Georgia Tech kicked off to Duke with a 20-13 lead. With 0:26 remaining, halfback Brittain Brown ran it in for a 2-yard touchdown to cap off an 11-play, 72-yard touchdown drive by the Blue Devils in just 1:37.

That is just one example of an incredibly poor showing for the Jackets in a game that would’ve propelled Tech to bowl eligibility for the second-straight season had it not ended with an embarrassing 43 to 20 blowout at the hands of Duke. Instead, Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets must either compete for sixth win against top-10 UGA next weekend or hope for mercy from the NCAA in the form of a bowl waiver at 5-6.

Regrettably, we have to return our focus to this evening’s disaster before anything else.

The Jackets and Blue Devils traded punches throughout the first and second quarters, with Tech leading 14-3 at the 14:00 mark of the second following a 3-yard touchdown run by JJ Green before being outscored 17-7 the rest of the way. David Cutcliffe’s Devils were even less kind in the second half, pitching a shutout for the final 30 minutes of game time while hanging 23 unanswered on the Jackets.

The Georgia Tech defense, led by Ted Roof, was hapless from start to finish. The Blue Devils punted a grant total of one time, with that sole stop coming at the 11-minute mark of the fourth quarter. When all was said and done, Duke hung exactly 500 yards on a disappointingly unenergetic Tech defense which failed to force a turnover and gave up 6.33 yards per play to an opponent which had previously lost all but one of its ACC games. Over their past five conference games, the Devils scored a grand total of 57 points. They very nearly matched that number today alone.

The defensive line was dismantled particularly thoroughly, with running back Brittain Brown going for 116 yards on 14 carries and quarterback Daniel Jones adding on 91 yards of his own on 16 carries. Each rushed for a touchdown.

The offense isn’t blameless, either. Despite an incredibly hot start and a respectably 359 yards on the day, the second half performance from Paul Johnson’s signature option attack was pitiful. The third quarter in particular was one of the worst performances you’ll ever see from a college offense, as the Jackets went for a total of 5 yards on 6 plays for the entire 15-minute period while the defense continued its struggles to keep the Devils off of the field. Taquon Marshall clearly felt pressured to make plays, as we saw in the Tennessee game, and it showed in the form of missed reads and reluctance to play to the perimeter.

Play calling was also suspect, featuring a number of puzzling long passes on 1st-and-10 and another deep ball on a critical 4th-and-4 deep in Duke territory late in the game. That would be understandable if Duke was doing anything to stop the option, but the Devils’ only success against Tech’s ground game came on the occasional egregiously missed block. The Jackets managed to finish with 5.9 yards per carry yet still felt the need to throw the ball 14 times, only 3 of which were completed.

Paul Johnson was outcoached and Georgia Tech players were outplayed, particularly in the second half. There were missed tackles from start to finish and three missed opportunities to recover Duke fumbles on the first drive alone, providing further proof of what anyone who can read the final score already knows: Duke wanted it more. They wanted it more, and they took it. It’s just that simple.

Major changes will need to be made this week if the Jackets are going to have a chance against UGA in what could be the season’s final game, likely a noon kickoff following the loss.