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Five observations and more from Duke football's first half against Georgia Tech

<p>Running back Mataeo Durant has paced the Blue Devils' offense early.</p>

Running back Mataeo Durant has paced the Blue Devils' offense early.

The Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets have given the primetime slot a plethora of wack action through the first two frames, with big plays, safeties and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns. In Duke's final road game of the season, it heads to the locker room trailing Georgia Tech 28 to 26:

Five observations:

  1. Punt to win: Who needs offense when you have punting? Duke got on the board when the Yellow Jackets muffed a booming punt on their own goal line to give Shaka Heyward an easy scoop-and-score. Porter Wilson kept up the excellent punting throughout the half to keep Georgia Tech away from easy drives.
  2. Too much wind in Chase Brice’s sails: Georgia Tech’s defense was all too happy to dare Brice to throw accurate deep balls. The Yellow Jackets gambled correctly as Brice missed a number of open receivers downfield with wild overthrows, only connecting on a deep pass once.
  3. Offensive line struggles: If the problem wasn’t Brice’s overthrows, it was a leaky offensive line. The interior, in particular, had trouble keeping Brice upright throughout the half, including on a sack that briefly took him out of the game.
  4. Tackling matters: It was clear from the second snap of the game that Duke didn’t come to tackle, and the Yellow Jackets made it clear they were much better prepared in that area. There were countless third downs when Georgia Tech forced missed tackles for needed yards and just as many where Blue Devil ballcarriers couldn't create that same luck.
  5. Medium passing rules: Brice was on the money between 10 and 20 yards in the half, hitting posts and ins in stride to keep the chains moving and help Duke keep pace.

By the numbers:

  • 61, 48, 42: Duke allowed gains of 61, 48 and 42 yards to Georgia Tech’s running backs on three separate drives, allowing its offense to subsist on occasional breakthroughs to fuel scoring.
  • -2: The Blue Devils had accumulated an astounding -2 yards of offense when they first got on the board, thanks to the aforementioned muffed punt touchdown.
  • 18-yard punt: Porter Wilson, averaging 44.2 yards per punt, was called in the second quarter to punt from within Georgia Tech’s 40 yard line. A by-necessity short punt and an unfortunate bounce led to a major decrease in his remarkable average.

A play that mattered:

With less than three minutes left in the half, Brice threw a ball to Mateo Durant, who had a one-on-one matchup down the field. As the ball floated over his head, he corralled it with one hand, tying the game at 21 apiece.


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