The end result may have become a bit tighter than David Cutcliffe would have preferred given the way things started, but he will surely take it. Duke (3-1, 1-0 ACC) scored a nice win in the inclement weather in Durham Saturday afternoon, holding off No. 22 Georgia Tech for a 34-20 victory. Safety Jeremy Cash came through with the big play by breaking through the line of scrimmage and coming from behind Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas to knock the ball loose. Duke recovered the fumble with just over two minutes to play, and Shaquille Powell broke up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown to put the cherry on top of a division win.
Both teams entered this game coming off a loss. Georgia Tech lost last week at Notre Dame, while Duke lost at home against Northwestern. While the weather may not have cooperated early on, the Blue Devils came out on a mission to get back in the win column. Duke scored 19 points in the first quarter to build a good early lead, and the offense had answers for Georgia Tech’s attempts at a rally in the second half.
After Georgia Tech kicked a field goal in the third quarter, DeVon Edwards returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The Yellow Jackets would keep chipping away in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Justin Thomas ran in for a 12-yard touchdown to cut the Duke lead to 26-20 after the PAT. Georgia Tech got the ball once more with a little over three minutes to play, but Cash’s forced fumble was the set-up to the knockout blow by Powell’s touchdown run.
The big question now becomes whether or not either of these two has what it takes to be the team to beat in what could be a wide-open ACC Coastal Division? Judging by the way each played on Saturday in Durham, there is room for improvement on both teams. The two teams combined for five turnovers and neither offense had a great showing. Georgia Tech got 326 yards of offense, while Duke picked up 279 yards of offense.
Duke gets a chance to go 2-0 in ACC play next week when they host Boston College. Key game sin division play will come later in October with road games against Virginia Tech and UNC wrapped around a home game against Miami. Georgia Tech will host North Carolina next week, and a win would put them right back in the running. Going 0-2 in the division is not something that will be easy to rally from, even in this division.