by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke still has a chance to accomplish plenty of things this football season as it goes into a home game against No. 7 Georgia Tech on a cool, sunny Saturday.
But for the Blue Devils to accomplish any major goals, they probably need to win today.
They're already having their best season in 15 years, but it could get a lot better.
With three games left in the regular season, Duke needs to win two to get into its first bowl game since 1994. With three wins the Blue Devils could actually make the ACC Championship Game, and they wouldn't be heavy underdogs if they get there. The winner of that goes to a BCS bowl. But those big dreams all depend on today, and that means Duke has to figure out a way to beat the No. 2 rushing team in the country.
The Yellow Jackets, who are trying to claim the Coastal Division title and a spot in the ACC Championship Game, could still win the National Championship if five teams ahead of them lose.
Scouts from the Champs Sports and Chick-Fil-A Bowls are in the house again.
Tech has won five straight in the series, and handled the Blue Devils 27-0 last year.
There will be no miracle today, as the Yellow Jackets recover from a rough first 13 minutes to win 49-10.
Duke takes care of business on its first drive, going 73 yards in nine plays with Thaddeus Lewis hitting Re'quan Boyette from 17 yards out at 10:47. Will Snyderwine, who was injured last week, adds the boot.
And the Blue Devils' defense is getting the job done despite the fact tackle Vince Oghobaase is out with an injury. Tech goes three-and-out on its first drive, and turns the ball over on downs at its own 14 after a terrible snap on on the second.
Duke makes it 10-0 with 1:30 left in the quarter as Snyderwine nails a 31-yard field goal.
Georgia Tech quickly gets on the board, as Orwin Smith returns the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Duke 2 and Josh Nesbitt pushes it in on the next play. Scott Blair's kick makes it 10-7 with 1:12 left in the period.
The Jackets finally get something rolling early in the second, going 86 yards in 10 plays with Marcus Wright going in from 16 yards out and Blair adding the boot at 11:22.
And now Tech seems to be getting into a rhythm, going 66 yards in seven plays with Jonathan Dwyer going in from three yards out. Blair's kick makes it 21-10 at 5:50.
Duke gets a reprieve with 3:53 left in the half, when a 54-yard Nesbitt-to-Demaryius Thomas completion to the Blue Devils' 19 is overturned on review.
But Tech makes it 28-10 on a 32-yard Nesbitt to Stephen Hill pass with 32 seconds left followed by Blair's kick.
And the Jackets essentially put it away on their first possession of the second half, as Dwyer scores from 12 yards out and Blair's kick makes it 35-10 at 12:36.
Tech leads 42-10 late in the third when Duke's redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Renfree goes down with a knee injury. Coach David Cutcliffe says it might be ligament damage.
They said it ...
Duke coach David Cutcliffe: "Mama said there'd be days like this. I know we were ready to play. Our assignments, and all three phases. It was evident the way we started the game we were ready to play when we opened the ball game. Somewhere in there the wheels started coming off. For us to play well, we have to play well in all three phases for us to be successful as a team. What you saw today, it just hadn't happened to us. All three phases struggled, and when that occurs one begets the other. ... We had people in the right places. We just didn't make the tackles. We had a good plan defensively and I knew we were ready, but we couldn't sustain it. Are any of us pleased at the performance? No."
Tech coach Paul Johnson (on winning the Coastal): "I think (my players are) excited. Those guys have really worked hard and a lot of people have doubted them along the way, especially early. They've just been resilient and they kept playing. Lord knows we can play a lot better, and we need to. But I'll give them credit; they find a way to win. For the last few weeks, they've found a way to win."
Lewis: "Obviously we didn't execute. Their defense buckled down, and we didn't execute as well as we needed to to put up points today. It's a lack of execution. We knew what they were doing. We just weren't executing. We've got playmakers and they've got to make plays. The energy you come out with, you have to sustain. ... We have to get these guys together and rally. It's not over. We still have two games left and we have a great opportunity ahead of us. We obviously have to have a short-term memory and keep moving."
Rey: "It's always hard to prepare for their speed, and they had some big plays. Hats off to them for making plays. ... We're just looking day-by-day. We're looking at tomorrow and at Tuesday coming out for practice and getting ready for Miami. We never go into a game not thinking we can win. Every game we go into we think we're going to win."
What does it all mean?
That Georgia Tech is still on track for a huge season, and that Duke either has to beat Miami on the road next week or simply go for a .500 season in the home finale with Wake Forest.
Stars of the game
3. Georgia Tech defensive tackle Ben Anderson, with five tackles including three for losses and two sacks.
Play of the game
Smith's 83-yard kickoff return to the Duke 2 after the Blue Devils had gone up 10-0.
Tech leads 46-30-1.
Duke: Lost 2.
Georgia Tech: Won 8.
Duke at Miami, Nov. 21, noon
Georgia Tech vs. Georgia, Nov. 28, TBA