Georgia Tech started the season as the prohibitive divisional favorite, returning champs, returning quarterback and all.
Previous year Virginia Tech was coming off a road win against Ohio State, before getting upset at home by an upstart ECU team.
Duke, eighth in the nation in total defense, will be challenged by Georgia Tech’s run-heavy triple option that ranks second in the country (377 yards per game) in rushing.
Not long after Tech pulled within 26-20 on Thomas’ 12-yard scramble with 8:02 left in the game, the Jackets twice found themselves in position to re-take the lead. They simply could not generate any momentum in the second half. North Carolina won 48-43 a year ago to snap a five-game losing streak in the series. The Wildcats forced Sirk to throw two interceptions and had two hurries.
You can’t blame a coach too much if he’s done something that hasn’t been done over the course of roughly half a century. He sliced through the middle of the defense and broke free for a thirty yard run and a touchdown. They appear to have cleared up the confusion pretty quickly. It seemed like nothing was working.
On offense, Deshaun Watson is blossoming into one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, but the offensive line is young, and susceptible to the four-man rush.
We’ve since watched them play, and Coastal Chaos has been elevated to Coastal Calamity. Tech was deficient in various ways. The game was decided on the next possession when quarterback Justin Thomas chose not to hand off to Skov, kept the ball and coughed it up to Duke on a fumble. In each of the last two games; Jones has been benched in favor of J.T. Barrett; through 30 minutes of play, Barrett hasn’t taken off his headset in favor of a helmet. People are challenging us in different ways. Our D-line has just been playing tremendously. Thomas was often under pressure when he threw. Syracuse’s tradition is based on its stellar running backs from the past, the great Jim Brown, Heisman Trophy victor Ernie Davis and Floyd Little. The A-backs were often boxed in on the perimeter. Notre Dame attacked the Georgia Tech defense between the tackles and on the perimeter with its rushing attack. Either way, the ACC’s depth remains a concern after watching last season’s surprise power falter once again. That’s a fact that Johnson said can’t be overlooked, particularly when it comes to divisional games. “We had good skill guys”.
This much is clear.
The Wolfpack played their best game so far against what was perceived to be their toughest opponent yet. I’m not going to get down on myself. “They created a whole new line of scrimmage…we were able to play disciplined football and assignment football and tackle the man with the ball”.
More importantly, they were deficient on the ever-critical third downs (5-of-19) and fourth downs (1-of-5), and special teams were a mess.
Georgia Tech’s pattern – not confined to any single coach (and paradoxically, occurring in fact under highly-esteemed coaches over many decades) – of not backing up one big season with another will nearly certainly continue.
Compounding matters, Duke safety DeVon Edwards, a junior from Covington, Ga., and like Cash a preseason All-America selection, returned the kickoff after Butker’s second field goal for 100 yards and his school-record fifth for a score. With most of those players gone, Duke remains competitive week in and week out.
“Inconsistencies were very bad for us”, Cutcliffe said. “That was about the only adjustment we made – we settled down”.
That is not to say that Duke is the league’s clear-cut No. 3 program.
Wide receiver Ricky Jeune was something of a revelation Saturday. Duke is tied for 15th nationally against the run, giving up 93 yards per game. Obviously, this group doesn’t have someone who can match the sort of productivity that DeAndre Smelter did last season – at least not right now – but it’s going to need someone beyond Thomas to help. Powell in turn tops team rushing.
Sunday was special-teams coordinator Ray Rychleski’s birthday. Four plays later, the Yellow Jackets converted a field goal to make the score 19-13.
Johnson said the defensive effort should have been good enough. We’ve just got to pick it up. There are a lot of weapons on this Canes offense so don’t sleep on this team. “I think that was good, hard football”. Mike London’s Virginia team was (predictably) exposed by a brutal non-conference slate. There was no one anywhere by me. Saturday, it just happened to be the unit that hasn’t typically played that role in recent years.
“That’s their bread and butter, going to the dive”, Cash said. But, perhaps that’s the Jackets’ fate this season. But it may be how the season unfolds. North Carolina by 23. You do the same things that you do when you win. We’ll have to wait and see.