Duke football will continue its ACC campaign against a hungry Georgia Tech team this Saturday. Before the Blue Devils enter Wallace Wade Stadium, the Blue Zone brings some film analysis to preview the game:
Duke got off to a rocky start in conference play on Saturday with a thrashing by in-state arch-rival North Carolina. After the first quarter in Kenan Memorial Stadium, it looked like the Blue Devils stood more than a fighting chance against the Tar Heels, but all of that came crashing down in the second quarter. Now, Duke will be back at home to play Georgia Tech, who beat North Carolina by quite a large margin.
That isn’t to say that the Yellow Jackets are in a much better position than the Blue Devils. They have quite a few embarrassing losses themselves. Like Duke, they lost their first game of the season against a non-Power Five opponent. They appeared to turn things around against Kennesaw State but then proceeded to lose to Clemson. After a stunning victory against North Carolina, the Yellow Jackets then lost in a similarly stunning way to Pittsburgh.
One thing stood out (or didn’t stand out, depending on how you’d like to look at it) in their game against Pittsburgh: defense. The Yellow Jackets’ defense was especially bad, allowing Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett to torch them for 389 passing yards.
Here’s an example of a botched, yet successful play. The intended receiver Jordan Addison slipped and fell but was still able to catch the pass. This was the perfect play for the Yellow Jackets to record an interception or, at the very minimum, swat the ball away to force a third-and-short. Instead, the Panthers secured the first down and plenty more.
Bad defense by Georgia Tech will be good news for Duke. The North Carolina defense bothered quarterback Gunnar Holmberg all afternoon, sacking him four times. More than sacks, though, the Tar Heels put an immense amount of pressure on Holmberg throughout the game, forcing him to throw the ball away countless times. This led to many third-and-outs, which Duke converted at a miserable 2-15 rate. Watch how North Carolina forces Holmberg to fumble the football, leading to a defensive touchdown.
But along with excellent defense by the Tar Heels, what paved the way for such intense pressure on Holmberg was a lackluster performance by the Blue Devil’s offensive line. Watch how, in the previous clip, a North Carolina defender blows by Duke’s starting right guard, Jacob Monk. To prevent an offensive disaster against Georgia Tech, Duke’s line will need to turn their play up several notches.
There was one bright spot for Duke in their last game, though. Prior to their match against the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils’ defense was inconsistent at best, but against North Carolina, Duke’s defense was completely different, recording five sacks of their own. Watch North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell try to escape pressure, only to run into a mob of Blue Devils who were right there to contain him.
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This game will be a story of two teams who are far more similar than they are different. Both are yearning to make a statement and garner a conference win. For Duke, the key to that will be a solid performance by the offensive line, which will face off against what’s bound to be a fired-up Georgia Tech defense.