These short takes off Georgia Tech-Duke are presented as a companion to the game column, which can be found here. Tech lost 31-25.
1. Justin Thomas has had some splendid days in his first season as Tech’s quarterback, but this wasn’t one. He ran the ball quite well — 119 yards on 19 rushes — and he kept plays going longer than they should have. Trouble was, his improvisations masked the inherent problem Tech was having: Its running game wasn’t overwhelming Duke, which entered the game ranked last among ACC teams in rushing defense. The Jackets were moving — they punted only once — but weren’t scoring touchdowns. Two bad Thomas interceptions removed all rational hope. After the second, Thomas gave way to Tim Byerly, who steered Tech to more touchdowns in seven minutes than Thomas had in 51. Coach Paul Johnson said afterward that Thomas had rolled his ankle in the first half but tried to gut it out.
2. Tech entered the game 5-0 in large part because it led the ACC in turnover margin. They induced no turnovers Saturday and lost. We saw again Saturday that the Jackets’ defense isn’t apt to shut down any well-coached opponent. (Miami, which is poorly coached, doesn’t count.) The Devils didn’t exactly overrun Tech’s D, but they found a working method and kept drives alive, and when they drove they tended to score touchdowns. The Jackets registered no sacks and yielded first-half first downs on second-and-22 and third-and-26, much to Johnson’s obvious chagrin. (In his postgame briefing, he mentioned the two long-yardage plays and seemed enthused about neither.)
3. Tech’s path to a Coastal Division title would have been clearer had it won, but one loss shouldn’t be seen as a disqualification. The Jackets essentially swapped a home loss to Duke with the road victory over Virginia Tech. They hold the tie-breaking edge over Virginia Tech and Miami, though Duke now holds the tiebreaker over them. It’s true the Devils have much the easier schedule — only two ACC road games remaining, those at Syracuse and Pitt — and Duke doesn’t have to play Clemson, which Georgia Tech does. Still, the Devils aren’t apt to go 7-1 in league play. Going 6-2 still figures to win the division, and Tech has a real chance to do that.