Looking to keep pace with Pittsburgh, who won earlier in the afternoon, Duke is looking to get out of Blacksburg with a win to remain in a tie for first place in the ACC Coastal. So far, so good for the Blue Devils, who lead Virginia Tech 14-10 at the half.
Duke opened the game with a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a Max McCaffrey touchdown pass from Thomas Sirk from the one-yard line for a 7-0 lead. Virginia Tech answered with a 78-yard touchdown drive ending with a 16-yard pass to Bucky Hodges from Michael Brewer on the ensuing possession. Duke used the Sirk-to-McCaffrey combo once more to regain the lead in the first quarter just six plays later.
Duke is playing just its third ACC game of the season. Pittsburgh has jumped out to a 4-0 start in ACC play after edging Syracuse earlier in the day. North Carolina is also off to an undefeated start and looking for a road win in Virginia against the Cavaliers. The Blue Devils are 7-of-11 on third downs. If that continues, Virginia Tech’s defense coudl start losing steam in the second half.
A match-up of the past two representatives in the ACC Championship Game from the ACC Coastal has been about as even as expected. A late touchdown by Georgia Tech by Zach Laskey has made this a two-point game, in favor of the visiting Duke Blue Devils. Duke holds a narrow 14-12 edge at the break.
The game has played out about as you might expect. Georgia Tech has been plugging away with their running game, already with 173 rushing yards as a team. Quarterback Justin Thomas leads the game with 81 rushing yards, but he has completed four of seven pass attempts for 30 yards as well. Georgia Tech is averaging 6.4 yards per rushing attempt, which is just a couple of tenths off the average put together by Duke in the first half (6.6 yards per rush).
Thomas Sirk has two carries but one is for Duke’s only rushing touchdown of the game. Anthony Boone has not been the most efficient through the air this afternoon, but one of his passes was good for a short touchdown to Max McCaffrey. Duke’s offense has been much more balanced compared to Georgia Tech, but so far neither team has made a critical error. Duke’s better half inside the red zone is the difference right now, but two points is nothing Georgia Tech cannot overcome if it sticks to its plan.
If Georgia Tech can manage to come back and win this one, the ACC Coastal will likely be their’s to lose. Georgia Tech has already defeated Miami and Virginia Tech. A win would put Duke in the rear view mirror as well.
In control of their ACC Coastal fate and coming off a big win over Miami the previous week, perhaps a slow start should have been expected for Duke this weekend. Playing on the road at Wake Forest, the Blue Devils did just that but David Cutcliffe‘s team managed to pull it together and find some momentum going in to the half after digging out of a 14-0 hole to tie things up at the half.
Wake Forest took advantage of a first quarter turnover by Duke when Duke’s Issac Blakeney lost control of a football while fighting for extra yardage on a short pass play. Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson forced the fumble and Thomas Brown picked up the loose ball and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown and early 7-0 lead. A touchdown pass from Tanner Price to Spencer Bishop in the second quarter gave the home team a surprising 14-0 lead but then Duke settled down.
Duke quarterback Anthony Boone tossed the first of his two first half touchdowns to Jamison Crowder inside the red zone to get the Blue Devils on the board after starting a possession on Wake Forst’s side of the field. About six minutes later, and about a minute before halftime, Boone struck again deep inside the red zone with a short pass to Max McCaffrey.
Duke’s defense has played well, holding Wake Forest to just 100 yards of total offense at the break. Duke’s Boone has also been accurate, completing 13 of 16 pass attempts in the first half. A Duke victory will keep the Blue Devils on top of the ACC Coastal Division with one game to play. A loss though will re-open the door for the division with time running out. Duke still has a leg up n the division but needs to seize the opportunity today before traveling to rival North Carolina next week.