Following an extremely disappointing home loss against Virginia Tech, many thought the Blue Devils’ football season was over and it was time to move forward to basketball in Durham. But Duke recovered with a huge road win at Georgia Tech, showing that the team is not ready to give up on itself just yet.
The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways and stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:
Three key takeaways:
1. Rush defense leads the way
It was Duke’s front-seven that deserved much of the credit for its win in Atlanta, limiting the Yellow Jackets to 229 rushing yards on 61 carries (3.8 yards per carry). While that total seems high, Georgia Tech came into the contest as the No. 1 rushing offense in the country with an average of 373 yards per game on 6.6 yards per rush. Duke’s rush defense- ranked 29th in the country prior to Saturday’s win- is clearly the team’s strong suit and must continue its impressive play if the Blue Devils hope to keep rolling.
2. Deon Jackson leads the offense
With Brittain Brown out Saturday and Marvin Hubbard out for the season, Duke needed Deon Jackson to step up against Georgia Tech. The Atlanta, Ga. native did just that, rushing for 98 yards on 21 carries (4.7 yards per rush) and a touchdown in front of a hometown crowd. Jackson’s 98-yard performance is a career high, and the true sophomore has now scored in all but one of the Blue Devils’ games this year.
3. Daniel Jones getting back into rhythm
Daniel Jones is still working on finding his groove after missing two weeks due to clavicle surgery. The redshirt junior passed for 206 yards and three touchdowns in just his second game back Saturday, the three passing scores tying a career-high mark the quarterback has achieved three times before. But Jones also tossed an interception for the second consecutive game and completed a season-low 63 percent of his passes. The Charlotte, N.C. native looks to return to his early-season form next Saturday against Virginia at home.
Three key stats:
Duke’s win was carried by 21 third-quarter points, tying its third-quarter against N.C. Central and second-quarter at Northwestern for the team’s most points in an individual period this season. The three scores all came off Georgia Tech fumbles in the final six minutes of the quarter. Daniel Jones first connected with true senior T.J. Rahming on a 48-yard heave to give the Blue Devils a 14-7 lead, with short touchdown passes to redshirt seniors Davis Koppenhaver and Johnathan Lloyd extending Duke’s edge to 28-7.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Georgia Tech came into its matchup with Duke hot, averaging 64.5 points and 543 yards of total offense over its last two games. But the Blue Devils limited the Yellow Jackets to just 14 points and 354 yards Saturday, further proving Durham is home to one of the nation’s top defensive units. Duke entered the week as the No. 21 scoring defense in the country, allowing 18.4 points per game.
Despite their overall prowess, the Blue Devils still have some glaring weaknesses on the defensive side of the football. The Yellow Jackets managed 17.9 yards per catch Saturday, illustrating Duke’s inability to prevent big passing plays. The return of cornerback Michael Carter II helped a bit, but as long as Mark Gilbert is out, the Blue Devils’ secondary will remain the team’s weak-suit.
For the first five weeks of the year, Duke’s’ 2018 season looked parallel to its 2017 campaign. The Blue Devils were undefeated heading into a big home matchup, with this year’s being Virginia Tech, and came out immensely disappointed. But after last season’s week five defeat against Miami, the team never recovered, dropping its next six. Duke’s victory this week proved that will not be the case this year.
With the win, the Blue Devils now move to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the ACC. While Duke currently sits fifth in the ACC Coastal, its hopes of a berth in the ACC Championship Game actually took a big step forward this past weekend in Miami’s loss to Virginia. Now, the Blue Devils look to start another win streak in their matchup with the Cavaliers next Saturday at 12:30 p.m.