ATLANTA — After a first half in which neither team could get a defensive stop, Duke appeared to have one on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Then Georgia Tech left tackle Ray Beno caught a deflected pass for a first down.
Duke was never able to recover and lost 42-24. The one defensive stop the Blue Devils needed never came.
With the loss, Duke (6-5, 3-4 in the ACC) was eliminated from the chase to win the ACC Coastal Division. The game next week against Miami will be for pride and the chance to clinch the programs first winning season since 1994.
Im not down, Im not frustrated, head coach David Cutcliffe said. Sometimes the best efforts you have in life just dont pay off the way you expect them to.
Cutcliffe said that Duke played wellGeorgia Tech (6-5, 5-3) just simply played better.
The Yellow Jackets were 13-for-20 on third down and a perfect 4-for-4 on fourth down. But they faced so many third downs because Duke didnt give up many explosive plays, save for a few passes.
We made some mistakes in the passing game, but not many. We all saw what we saw a week ago, Cutcliffe said in reference to Georgia Techs win against UNC, which was filled with long passes. They had 20 third downs. We made them go the long way over and over again.
Trailing 28-24, Duke had another chance for a stop early in the fourth quarter. But on fourth-and-1 from the Blue Devils 19-yard line, Georgia Tech converted with an 8-yard quarterback keeper from Tevin Washington. That 18-play drive that took 8:31 off the clock ended with the only pass attempted during that span, an 8-yard touchdown catch by Robert Godhigh. With the touchdown, Georgia Tech made it a two-possession game, as the Yellow Jackets led 35-24.
That drive was the longest on the season for Georgia Tech in terms of both time and number of plays. The Yellow Jackets had another drive that lasted more than eight minutes in the second quarter, a 16-play scoring drive that took 8:03 off the clock. That one ended with a 2-yard touchdown run from Durham native Vad Lee.
For the second week in a row, Georgia Tech beat an ACC opponent that had an extra week to ready for the option offense.
We definitely felt prepared, but you cant run it at the speed Georgia Tech will in practice with the scout team, defensive end Kenny Anunike said. Definitely we had to get adjusted to the speed.
The true turning point came on the first drive of the third quarter. On third-and-7 from the Duke 28-yard line, Duke appeared to be in position for a stop when Washingtons pass bounced off of its intended target, Chris Jackson. In fact, Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell hit Moore, But the ball bounced right into the hands of the 6-foot-2, 292-pound Beno, who rumbled nine yards for the first down, breaking a tackle in the process.
Thats just a fluke play, Anunike said. Its going to happen one in a million times.
Even though Blue Devils didn't give up many long runs, the Yellow Jackets were able to methodically move down the field, eventually finding the end zone on six of eight possessions, not including the kneeldown that ended the game. That put pressure on Dukes offense, which was forced to watch from the sideline as Georgia Tech continually put together time-consuming drive.
We had, what, five, possessions in the first half? Desmond Scott said after the game. Thats unbelievable.
Duke was forced to play catch-up after opening the game with a punt, which proved critical as both teams struggled to slow the opposing offense in the first half. Each team only forced one punt in the opening half, and Georgia Techs came on a drive that started with 53 seconds left in the second quarter.
After the game, Cockrell summed it up best.
We just couldnt come up with the stops when we needed them.