This Saturday, Duke will take on Georgia Tech, a team renowned for a dangerous triple-option offensive attack. The Blue Devils (4-1, 0-1 ACC) are quite familiar with this style of offense, as they came out victorious over Army in their season opener, holding the Black Knights to just 14 points and 168 yards on the ground, both season-lows.
However, the Yellow Jackets’ (3-3, 1-2 ACC) triple-option is a wholly different beast in potentness compared to that of the Black Knights—Georgia Tech’s 373 rushing yards per game and 29 running touchdowns lead the country by a longshot, while its 6.6 yards per rushing attempt is the fourth-best rate in the nation.
So, just what makes the Georgia Tech offense stand out? Balance: three ball carriers—TaQuon Marshall, Jordan Mason and Tobias Oliver—are beyond the 400-yard mark. To contextualize this, each aforementioned Yellow Jacket would lead Duke in rushing yards per game.
Marshall and Oliver compromise Georgia Tech’s duo of quarterbacks, and this is a system that heavily relies upon its signal callers, as the two are responsible for nearly half of the team’s carries.
The Yellow Jacket offensive line demonstrates its brute strength here, with right tackle Andrew Marshall paving the way with an excellent sealing block. TaQuon Marshall capitalizes on the open space, and his breakaway speed allows him to scamper into the end zone for Georgia Tech’s first score of the night.
On this play, a perfectly executed pitch to Qua Searcy results in a 56-yard gain. Marshall is able to get the Alcorn State outside linebacker to bite, giving Searcy plenty of room to operate. The senior halfback is lethal around the edge, averaging 11.8 yards per carry so far this season.
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Despite its proficiency in the running game, Georgia Tech struggles in throwing situations, an issue that plagues many triple-option offenses. The Yellow Jackets have dropped all three of their 2018 contests in which their opponent led at any point. TaQuon Marshall, who is the more reliable thrower of the team’s quarterbacks, is wildly inefficient, with a subpar 47.7 completion percentage and a touchdown to interception ratio of 2:4.
Third-and-14 necessitates a pass in most cases, and Marshall looks entirely uncomfortable in this situation. The Hamilton, Ga. native locks in on the left side of the field, rendering him unaware of the Clemson rush, setting up an easy strip sack.
Following an open date, Duke was able to scout Georgia Tech for an extra week. A formidable linebacking corps, led by Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris, will certainly be busy containing the triple option. Regardless, if the Blue Devil offense can get an early lead for the squad, Duke should capture its first conference win of 2018.