For the second week in a row, Georgia Tech spent almost the entire game playing catch-up, and fell short at the end.
After a loss in South Bend, the Yellow Jackets showed up in Durham, NC looking for a revenge on last year's loss to the Duke Blue Devils. However, instead of starting strong, the defense saw Duke run 20 plays for 149 yards and two touchdowns on its first three drives, resulting in an early 13-3 hole. Likewise, the offense started with a 6-play, 16-yard drive that ended in a field goal, before four straight drives that ended with a punt or turnover on downs. (One drive ended with a planned punt that turned into a turnover on downs after the snap went over punter Ryan Rodwell's head, before Rodwell made a heads-up play to throw the ball away.)
Speaking of special teams, Duke created a third touchdown off of a 69-yard punt return that was stopped at the 1-yard line, before scoring on the ensuing play from scrimmage to give Duke a 19-3 lead.
The Yellow Jackets started to click on offense before halftime, ripping off a 12-play, 74-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. The timely offense enabled Georgia Tech to enter halftime with only a 19-10 deficit.
Unfortunately, any halftime adjustments made were largely ineffective, as Georgia Tech only managed another 10 points in the second half. The team as a whole finished with only 316 yards of total offense, 16 first downs (across 15 non-half-ending drives), and a 6-of-24 mark on third and fourth down.
In the postgame press conference, Coach Johnson remarked, "We're just not a very good offensive football team right now." He also said, "And then what happens is the quarterback starts pressing and it gets worse, just like the last play. Hand it off. If you don't make the first down, you don't make the first down. That's the read. You have to hand it off. I understand where he's at. He's trying to make plays himself and gets frustrated." Coach Johnson said this in reference to a late turnover on a triple option play, when a Justin Thomas give to Patrick Skov would have likely created a first down, where Thomas actually kept and had the pitch swatted from his hand.
Duke took advantage of every opportunity presented to them, creating two turnovers, returning the aforementioned punt for a near-touchdown (and creating a touchdown immediately afterwards), and returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter.
After a slow start, the Jackets' defense played extremely well for most of the game. After Duke managed to score 19 points in the first quarter, Georgia Tech's defense created 9 straight drives that ended with seven punts and two turnovers, before yielding one last game-sealing touchdown on Duke's final drive of the game.
In contrast to his offense, Coach Johnson remarked, "They played really well in the second half. That's probably as good as a defense has played since I've been here. They played great and gave us every chance in the world to win the game."
The Jackets return home next week to continue their conference slate, as they take on the North Carolina Tar Heels. The game kicks off at 3:30pm, and can be seen on ESPNU.