ATLANTA, GA – A spirited, neck-and-neck first half between Georgia Tech (3-4, 1-3) and Duke (5-1, 1-1) for the Yellow Jackets’ Homecoming tilt quickly turned into a dispiriting unraveling by the home team.
“Three” was the theme. Fumbles on three consecutive touches by Tech’s offense and special teams resulted in three consecutive touchdown drives for Duke in under three minutes of game time, breaking open a once tied game and giving the Blue Devils a comfortable 21 point lead by the end of the third quarter. The rest of the game was simply a formality, with the Blue Devils coasting comfortably to a 28-14 win.
Duke’s win marked their fourth in their last five tries against the Yellow Jackets.
The aforementioned miscues by the Yellow Jackets were incurred by three different players. None came from the mesh or the pitch; rather the ball was simply lost or stripped while the runner was going down. Nonetheless, the result was the same and doomed Tech’s chances in a game that at one time seemed destined to go down to the wire.
Among the bright spots with the game still in question was the Yellow Jackets’ defense. Prior to the game-changing errors on offense and special times, Tech’s defense was mostly stout. They had allowed just 7 points and 168 yards on eight Blue Devils’ drives. Duke only muscled out 3.9 yards per play.
Tech’s defense forced three turnovers in the first half. The first came on 4 downs, with Kyle Cerge-Henderson knifing into the backfield and disrupting a 4th and 1 attempt by the Blue Devils on their second drive of the day. One drive later, redshirt freshman cornerback Tre Swilling timed a corner blitz perfectly, earning the first strip sack of his career and handing the ball back to the Georgia Tech offense.
Last but certainly not least, a quarterback pressure by Anree Saint-Amour led to cornerback Lamont Simmons’ first career interception. One cannot understate Saint-Amour’s impact on the game today. The senior defensive lineman continues to get better and had perhaps the best game of his career. His final stat line included two sacks, one quarterback hurry and a forced fumble.
Another standout, albeit on one crucial play, was true freshman wide receiver Malachi Carter. With the Jackets staring at a goose egg late in the first half, Carter hauled in a 32-yard touchdown reception from quarterback TaQuon Marshall, pulling the Jackets to a 7-7 tie heading into the halftime locker room. It was Carter’s third career catch.
Ultimately the lights went out across the board in all phases for Tech late in that fateful third quarter, and the Jackets never recovered. Up next is a trip to Blacksburg where the Jackets will look to get back on track and improve their chances at a bowl game. The number of wins still needed to reach a bowl? Three.