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Georgia Tech remains a question mark but fends off Duke

Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire

We still don’t know much about Georgia Tech despite a 38-35 win over Duke Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Duke, though, is a team we continue to learn about despite the Blue Devils slipping to 3-5 overall and 0-4 in ACC Coastal play.

The explanations for the above statements can be found at quarterback – Georgia Tech senior Justin Thomas and Duke redshirt freshman Daniel Jones.

All we learned about Georgia Tech was what the Yellow Jackets look like when Thomas resembles his sparkling sophomore year instead of his jumbled junior season.

Duke sophomore linebacker Ben Humphreys — who was still in high school Thomas’ sophomore year in 2014 — sounded after the game like he expected to see “junior” Thomas from 2015.

“Watching on film, he’s a different player in person,” Humphreys told the media.

“Senior” Justin ran 17 carries for 195 yards and two touchdowns and completed 10-of-14 passes for 264 yards with two TDs and without an interception.

But Georgia Tech’s defense allowed a season-high 559 yards – triple-digit numbers more than Clemson (442) gained against the Yellow Jackets. Two forced fumbles saved the Georgia Tech against Duke.

So Georgia Tech improved to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the ACC Coastal, but how the Rambling Wreck finishes up remains a question mark. The remaining games are at ranked North Carolina, at ranked Virginia Tech. home against improving Virginia and at in-state rival Georgia.

That sixth win to return to bowl eligibility won’t come easily. Last year the Yellow Jackets’ 3-9 record snapped a 17-year bowl streak.

Georgia Tech led 28-7 at halftime, but Duke rallied with four second-half touchdowns to nearly pull off a comeback.

“I was disappointed with the way we played in the second half,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson told the media.

“I think that we found a way to make enough plays to win. The quarterback (Jones) made some big plays in the second half. A lot of the same problems we have had all year. Can’t get off the field defensively and we had back-to-back turnovers off the kickoff return and on the very first play of the second half. Hopefully we learned a very valuable lesson.”

Duke remains two games shy of bowl eligibility and winless in conference play, but these final four games might be more about gaining experience for a young roster for the future.
The Blue Devils’ brightest light is at football’s most important position. Jones threw for 300 yards for the third time this season.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder finished with 378 total yards with 305 passing and 74 rushing. One reason for the productive total yards was he limited his losses to one yard. Earlier in the year he was holding the ball too long and either taking a sack or throwing an interception.
Jones finished 22-of-36 for 305 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His 23-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Daniel Helms was his ninth TD toss of 20 yards or more.

For the year, he has nine touchdowns with 11 interceptions. but he had gone two games without an interception. He is trending in the right direction for that crucial stat during his sophomore season in 2017.

“For us, what are we going to do?” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said to the media after the game. “We’ll study this and learn that we need to do better, and learn what we’re doing exceptionally well and who’s doing it.

“I’m excited to see our team grow. It’s been pretty interesting to see this team grow and adjust each week. I believe in my heart of hearts that we will see great response. I’m anxious to get back and have a great Sunday. That’s right where we’re focused, and that’s not coach-talk.”

Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter @shanny4055

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