The Duke football team suffered yet another close loss, falling 38-35 at Georgia Tech after leading in the fourth quarter. Each of Duke’s setbacks this year have been by no more than 14 points. Georgia Tech’s win reversed Duke’s two-game winning streak in the series and ended with another season-ending injury in running back Jela Duncan. He ruptured his left Achilles tendon.
“We didn’t tackle as well as we would like, and we had a few assignment issues,” coach David Cutcliffe said Sunday. “It was enough to get us behind in the first half. We didn’t take advantage of opportunities we had in the first half.”
Here are some notes from the Blue Devils’ loss at Georgia Tech:
Duncan’s career ends early: Senior running back Jela Duncan ruptured his Achilles celebrating a touchdown in the third quarter. He’ll miss the rest of the season, marking the end of his career at Duke, and undergo surgery Monday. It was a career day for Duncan, who passed 2,000 rushing yards as the sixth player in Duke history to reach that plateau. Duncan, the third Duke captain to be sidelined this season, ends his 43-game career with 2,025 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
“A big loss with Jela, but it will be another opportunity for our team to step up,” Cutcliffe said.
Duncan was celebrating Shaun Wilson’s 14-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Cutcliffe said Duncan described the injury as feeling like someone kicked him from behind, a sure sign of an Achilles injury. Wilson, who already shared snaps with Duncan, will have a many more carries with the loss of Duncan.
Duke must cash in: The Blue Devils’ next challenge is Virginia Tech, which gained control of the Coastal Division with a 39-36 win over Pitt on Thursday. Against Georgia Tech, Duke amassed 344 yards of offense with very little to show for, as it trailed 28-7 at the break and was shut out in the first quarter. Duke finished with 559 total yards.
“When you have opportunities, you better take advantage of them if you plan on being in the game against a Virginia Tech,” Cutcliffe said.
The big play: One would be Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas’ 50-yard run on third-and-27 from his own 21. There were less than 2 minutes left when he slid to a stop. But Thomas, this week’s Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week, had quite the day in Atlanta. He opened his four-touchdown game with an 82-yard rushing score. He ran in an additional touchdown and threw for two, including a 21-yard pass to capture the lead with 5:38 left.
Going into the game, Duke wanted to limit explosive plays, but Georgia Tech had its way with them to start.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan