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Back Seat Coachin’: Georgia Tech 31 - Duke 27

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The Jackets come back to win with 51 seconds to go in Durham.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Duke William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets came from behind and knocked off the Duke Blue Devils in Durham on Saturday, October 9th. In what was consistently bad weather, GT managed to score with 51 seconds to go and seal the victory. Tech needed this win after suffering a blowout loss to Pitt a week prior.

On the dash

Tech once again struggled on 3rd down on offense. The Jackets finished a paltry 4-for-13 on “money downs’ while allowing the Devils to pick up 2-of-3 4th downs even though Duke finished only 9-of-21 on money downs of their own.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Duke William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

Tech turned the ball over twice on interceptions and committed seven penalties including another week with a false start on offense. In order to win the Coastal, GT has to cut down on drive killing penalties and Jeff Sims has to cut down on turnovers.


GT offense

While the run game didn’t really get going, the passing game looked solid outside of the two interceptions from Sims. Sims averaged 11.9 yards per pass attempt and scored four TDs (three passing, one rushing) on the rain soaked afternoon. Jahmyr Gibbs ran for only 2.9 yards per carry and failed to score on the ground.

Through the air, Gibbs caught a big TD early with a 77 yard long and a score. Malachi Carter, Adonicas Sanders, Kyric McGowan and Kalani Norris all had big plays in the receiving game. Sanders and McGowan caught the other Sims TD throws and Carter had a 39 yard reception.

The Tech offensive line held Duke to only one sack, two TFLs, and only two hurries. So with the struggles in the traditional run game at least the pass protection looked improved for the Jackets.

Above- I love this play design all around. High motion to pull safeties on rotation, the double slant to take the corner and nickel inside, and then a wheel to Jahmyr Gibbs. I’m a huge ‘dagger’ (double slant) with arrow (flat slide) or wheel (above) fan, too. Great play call, great way to start the game.

Above- You have to be able to go under center and pick up an easy first down, touchdown, or avoid a safety (see: Miami vs. UVA for proof of why a QB wedge would be a good idea). But these are the little details that Tech still hasn’t overcome in year three that you want ironed out by the conference season. Does Sims score on this play? Yes. Is that likely to happen against a stronger opponent? No.

Above- Another great play call and design. The outside WR (#1 threat) runs a hitch inside (#2 threat) runs a fin and the inside receiver (#3 threat) runs a corner. Essentially smash concept. Sims showing off his arm here for the TD. These are the moments that make you say “potential All-ACC QB” regarding Sims.

Above- Great pick up by the RB in pass protection to make this throw happen. Then Sims drops a dime on the fade where only his receiver can get it. This is what it looks like when the whole machine is clicking.

Above- With 58 seconds to go, Sims takes the shotgun snap, feels pressure, and launches maybe the throw of his career for the winning TD. Unreal throw off his back foot, falling backwards... Jordan’esque fade away jumper stuff here.


GT defense

On defense, GT managed only one sack against the Blue Devils but did have eight TFLs in the win. Tech also had three hurries on the Duke quarterback. The Jackets defense allowed Gunnar Holmberg to average 10.1 yards per pass attempt and throw two TDs even though they did intercept him when it counted the most.

While the Tech defense didn’t allow a huge yards per carry number against Duke, Mataeo Durant did run for 152 yards and a score as David Cutcliffe never gave up on the run game. Jake Bobo caught a nice TD pass while both teams fumbled twice but never lost possession.

Above- GT has gone to the odd front more and more in ‘21, and Duke took advantage. The pressure package was weak and didn’t get home in time and Holmberg dropped a dime. The GT cornerback got smoked on the double move.

Above- The Tech defense has been really weak against rub concepts in the red zone. It’s hard not to be, I mean they work like a charm. FSU beat up on Notre Dame with them years ago, and they work here for Duke. When TEs are blocking so much and slip into the flat on play action, they’re typically open.

Above- It’s hard to stop Duke’s run game at the one yard line, for sure, but Tech has really doubled down on the odd front and it took size away at the line of scrimmage here on the old school ‘dive over the pile’ TD. The Jackets got pushed back and Durant scored.

Above- Nice interception from GT to seal the game and a smart move to slide down rather than try some heroics with time expiring.


In the rearview

The Jackets have an off week before they travel to Charlottesville to face the Virginia Cavaliers on October 23rd. GT is ranked 57th overall by Bill Connelly’s SP+ metrics, including 58th on offense, 47th on defense, and 102nd in kicking.

UVA is 4-2 and hosts Duke on the 16th. The Hoos are ranked 45th by the SP+ including 15th on offense, 82nd on defense and 109th in kicking. Virginia is led by QB Brennan Armstrong who has scored 19 touchdowns in 2021. The Hoos have a difficult offense to defend with Armstrong, RB Wayne Taulapapa hitting almost five yards per carry, and ‘football player’ Keytaon Thompson averaging 7.5 yards per rush and 14.4 yards per catch.

Early Prediction: UVA by 7.