The Duke Blue Devils evened their conference record to 1-1 on the season with a 31-25 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday. Their overall record now stands at 5-1 which puts them just one win from bowl eligibility. The next win would mark the third straight season Duke will go to a bowl under the watch of head coach David Cutcliffe.
Duke used a solid running game, led by Josh Snead with 102 yards on the ground. The Blue Devils rushed for 242 yards as a team and that helped lead them to a victory over previously undefeated and nationally ranked Georgia Tech.
With the win, Duke put itself back in the race to defend their Coastal Division crown from a season ago. The win also sets up a key ACC matchup in Wallace Wade next week with Virginia which stands 2-0 in the division.
Duke was in control for much of the game against the Yellow Jackets, but a rally towards the end made for a close game. The Blue Devils defense bent but did not break on the first several Yellow Jacket drives. By allowing just two early field goals in the red zone, the Duke offense was able use time of possession to their advantage.
With a strategy designed to keep the Tech offense off the field, it enabled the defense to rest. Duke was also aided in their big win by two timely interceptions.
Zavier Carmichael halted a Tech drive with an interception of Jacket quarterback, Justin Thomas, at the Duke four yard line. That 3rd quarter pick stalled a Tech drive when Duke was up 24-12.
Later in the 4th quarter, the Duke defense forced Thomas out of the pocket and Jeremy Cash intercepted a desperation pass. Cash returned the ball 23 yards to the to the Yellow Jackets 23 yard line.
The Cash pick led to a game clinching touchdown. Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk scored twice in the teams short yardage package. The two Sirk scores came on runs of 3 and 1 yard, the last giving the Blue Devils a commanding 31-12 lead.
But the Yellow Jackets weren’t finished. Duke started to play a softer defense to keep the ball in front of them when the Georgia tech was forced to pass the ball. Reserve quarterback Tim Byerly led his team to a score in a mere 57 seconds, thanks to a solid kickoff return.
After the ensuing Duke drive stalled, Byerly took the Yellow Jackets 89 yards in 9 plays.
That score led to another key moment, where Ryan Smith secured an onside kick. That helped Duke in that the Blue Devils ran out the clock.
The victory was the first in the David Cutcliffe era against a team that had been a nemesis. The Blue Devils didn’t play particularly well in the games closing minutes, but stellar early play secured a win.
With the win over Georgia Tech, Cutcliffe has just one ACC team left in the Coastal Division to defeat. That team is Pitt and the Blue Devils will travel for that game on November 1st. Duke lost it’s inaugural game with the Panthers a season ago in a shoot out at Wallace Wade.
The Blue Devils will have little time to enjoy this win in that they take on Virginia who has been on a bye week. The Cavaliers are much improved and have played a difficult schedule to date. And Duke is surely one of them teams that has been circled on their schedule in that Duke has had great success in the series of late.
The Blue Devils righted the ship after a loss to Miami, but the passing game continues to not be the force many felt it would be in the pre season. Thankfully, for Duke, their running game is the best it’s been since the days of Bill Murray. That has allowed the team to start the season with a 5-1 record before they get into the meat of their ACC schedule.