Ineffective Duke offense hurt Devils D in loss to Georgia Tech
The sterling statistics posted by Duke’s defense in the season’s first two games were bruised and battered in Georgia Tech’s 38-14 win over the Blue Devils on Saturday.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, though, didn’t have many complaints about his defense on Sunday after reviewing the game film.
“Georgia Tech wore on our defense a little and they were opportunistic,” Cutcliffe said Sunday. “I thought our defense fought well under the circumstances of being back on the field so quickly, so often.”
Yes, the impact from Duke’s offense being futile far too often on Saturday took a toll on Duke’s defense.
The Blue Devils (2-1, 0-1 in ACC) converted only 3 of 14 third downs, which led to nine Duke punts. That high number of empty possessions left Duke’s defense vulnerable and the Yellow Jackets (2-0, 1-0) took advantage to deal the Blue Devils their first loss of the season.
Over the first two weeks of the season, Duke had allowed only 14 points in wins over N.C. Central (45-0) and Memphis (28-14). Only seven of those points were allowed by Duke’s defense since Memphis had returned an interception for a touchdown.
Georgia Tech, though, put together six scoring drives on Saturday. Yellow Jackets quarterback Vad Lee, from Hillside High School, threw for four touchdowns and ran for another in the onslaught.
Duke’s defense entered Saturday No. 6 in the country, having allowed an average of 85 rushing yards per game. After the Yellow Jackets used their triple-option offense to gain 344 yards on the ground, Duke fell to No. 79 in rushing defense.
Cutcliffe said Duke’s offense must perform better to put its defense in better situations.
“Once we left them on the field longer than we should, it made it hard to get stops on defense,” Cutcliffe said. “There were a lot of people who played well on defense.”
The Blue Devils had Brandon Connette at quarterback after losing starter Anthony Boone to a broken collarbone in the Memphis game. A redshirt junior, Connette completed 15 of 28 passes for 122 yards while absorbing a pair of sacks.
Lee, meanwhile, was 8 of 16 for 125 yards for Georgia Tech. He became the first Yellow Jackets quarterback in coach Paul Johnson’s tenure to throw for four touchdowns in a game.
“They were actually more successful in their passing game than we were,” Cutcliffe said. “We can’t let that happen.”
While Connette had plenty of playing experience for Duke because he has been on the field often in short-yardage and goal-line sets over the last three years, his inexperience running the complete offense showed on Saturday. He misfired on two third-down passes in the first half that left the Blue Devils in punting situations.
“That wasn’t his thing when we were playing with him (over last three years),” Cutcliffe said. “I think he had to learn getting his eyes in the right vision. In fairness to him, it wasn’t just him and his accuracy. We did not have the crisp execution that we need to get. When that happens and you have a new guy, it’s never going to be good.”
Cutcliffe and his wide receivers coach, Scottie Montgomery, were critical of the wide receivers’ execution during the Memphis win. The group still appears to have work to do.
“I don’t think we’re where we need to be,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s consistency of execution. Spacing, splits, depth, etcetera, etcetera. Until you are crisp enough in that regard, you are never going to be as good as we can be.”
The Blue Devils began their preparations for their next game, at home with ACC newcomer Pittsburgh on Saturday (12:30 p.m., WRAL), with a light practice Sunday night. Cutcliffe said no notable injuries came out of the Georgia Tech game