The independent news organization of Duke University

Halftime: Georgia Tech 28, Duke 7

ATLANTA—Through the first 30 minutes, the Blue Devils have marched up and down the field, racking up more than 340 yards of offense and moving into Georgia Tech territory on their first six possessions.

But turnovers and miscues on both ends of the ball are haunting Duke once again.

The Yellow Jackets lead the Blue Devils 28-7 at halftime at Bobby Dodd Stadium thanks to a string of big plays facilitated by quarterback Justin Thomas and Duke's self-inflicted wounds. Thomas finished the half 5-of-8 for 187 yards and a touchdown through the air and added eight carries for 118 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown run.

The Yellow Jackets had no problem scoring on their first two series of the afternoon. Although the Blue Devils limited Georgia Tech's triple-option attack to just six rushing yards on the first drive, Thomas tossed a 50-yard bomb to wideout Brad Stewart and an 18-yard swing pass to running back J.J. Green—both coming on third down—before backup quarterback Matthew Jordan punctuated the opening drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

On Georgia Tech's next possession, Thomas faked a pitch on the triple option, then sprinted through the Duke line on 3rd-and-1, going nearly untouched 83 yards to the end zone. His longest rush of the season quickly put the hosts up 14-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.

Duke struggled to finish drives throughout the half. After easily pushing the ball into Yellow Jacket territory on each of its first two drives, the Blue Devil offense could not capitalize to cut into Georgia Tech's lead following a punt and Jela Duncan fumble.

Quarterback Daniel Jones was the Blue Devils' most effective offensive player, finding success both on the ground and through the air. The redshirt freshman ran five times for 52 yards and completed 14-of-20 passes for 167 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Helm with less than seven minutes left in the half.

But just two plays after Duke's lone touchdown, Thomas found a wide-open Clinton Lynch streaking down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown to put the home team back up by 14 points. 

A second fumble in Yellow Jacket territory prevented the Blue Devils from cutting into the Georgia Tech lead just before the half. After a 57-yard run by Shaun Wilson, the junior running back coughed the ball up near the goal line.

Duke marched back into Georgia Tech on its final possession of the half, then got stopped on fourth down for the second time Saturday. 

Thomas capitalized with a 27-second touchdown drive, finding Ricky Jeune for 40 yards through the air before keeping it for his second rushing touchdown of the day—this time for 22 yards. 

Here are some other observations from the first half:

  • With punter Austin Parker out for the season, walk-on Danny Stirt handled the punting duties Saturday afternoon and Will Kline took over as the Blue Devils' kickoff specialist.
  • Thomas' 118 rushing yards are the most he's had in any game this season and the first time the Prattville, Ala., native has recorded at least 100 rushing yards in game since his sophomore season in 2014.
  • The Blue Devils rotated their running backs throughout the half, with Wilson, Duncan and Joseph Ajeigbe each taking significant carries on separate drives to start the game. Duke has 177 yards on 24 rushes, but fumbles and fourth-down stops have ended the offense's momentum.
  • As has been the story for Duke most of the season, big plays have hurt the Blue Devil defense. Thomas has had no trouble finding wide open receivers behind the secondary, and his elusive moves when he runs have given Duke fits. 

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 

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