Red zone failures haunt Duke in 30-20 loss to Georgia Tech

ATLANTA – It was the tale of two halves for the Blue Devils in Atlanta, as the Yellow Jackets mounted a second half comeback on their senior day for the 30-20 victory. Anthony Allen led the way for Georgia Tech with 165 yards on the ground, followed by Tevin Washington with 94 yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). A 3rd quarter red zone interception and two missed 4th quarter field goals ultimately proved to be too much for the Blue Devils to overcome. In the loss, Sean Renfree finished the day with another 300+ yard passing game, as the receiving trio of Vernon, Varner, and Helfet helped to pick apart the Yellow Jackets’ secondary.

On a perfect day for football in Atlanta, the Blue Devils jumped out to a 13-6 first half lead behind two Will Snyderwine field goals and a 20-yard touchdown run by Brandon Connette. A fake punt by Alex King helped the Blue Devil offense extend a drive that ultimately resulted in the Connette touchdown run. Duke got off to a sluggish start as Josh Snead fumbled the first two kickoffs staring into the sun, but t/he Duke defense held Georgia Tech to just a field goal while the offense found its momentum.  In all, the defense held the Yellow Jackets to 125 rushing yards and just 1 of 8 on 3rd downs in the first half. With the Yellow Jackets driving into the red zone late in the first quarter, Matt Daniels forced a fumble by WR Kevin Cone, which was recovered by Kelby Brown. Patrick Egboh also helped to keep the Yellow Jackets at bay with 2 first half sacks.

In the second half, Georgia Tech mounted a comeback behind Allen and Washington, taking a 23-13 lead into the 4th quarter. The key 3rd quarter play came on Duke’s first possession of the second half, when Duke was threatening to score thanks to two clutch 3rd down completions to Conner Vernon, including a 36 yard reception. In the red zone, Connette was intercepted at the 15 yard line by Mario Butler, who returned it all 85 yards for the touchdown to put Georgia Tech up 16-13 with 7:11 in the 3rd quarter. The Yellow Jackets would add another touchdown late in the 3rd quarter to take their 23-13 lead heading into the final period.

But the Blue Devils fought back, opening the 4th quarter with an efficient drive capped by a 37 yard TD strike to Austin Kelly to make it 23-20 with 14:06 to play. Matt Daniels forced his second fumble of the day on the ensuing Georgia Tech drive and the Blue Devils recovered. The Duke offense drove down the field thanks to a 28 yard strike to Cooper Helfet, but stalled as Connette failed to convert a 3rd and 1. Snyderwine’s 34 yard field goal attempt was wide right, leaving Duke down 3 with 9:20 to play. Georgia Tech aired it out on the next possession, as Washington found Stephen Hill for a 79 yard touchdown, stretching the Jackets’ lead to 10. On Duke’s final possession, Snyderwine tried another field goal, this time from 54 yards, but came up short. Georgia Tech ate up the clock on their final drive, taking the ball 28 yards in 5:50 against a tired Blue Devil defense, sealing the victory and their 14th consecutive bowl-eligible season.

More post-game coverage to come on BDN.