Tech routed Duke on Family Weekend, shutting them out 27-0. The lopsided win improved the Jackets’ overall record to 4-1 and their ACC record to 2-1.
Sophomore receiver Demaryius Thomas had a record setting day, catching 230 yards and a touchdown. Thomas caught the touchdown on an 88-yard pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. The total was the second most in Jackets’ history. The record holder, Dez White, was on hand as an honorary captain.
“Before the game, I saw Dez White go out with the captains for the coin toss… I said I [wanted] to break the school record today,” said Thomas.
Freshman Jaybo Shaw filled in at the quarterback position, with sophomore Josh Nesbitt still out with an injury to his right hamstring. Shaw completed all nine of his passes to Thomas. The performance was a surprise for most, considering Tech’s emphasis on the run with Johnson’s option offense.
“Duke was a good team and they had practiced against the option for while. I guess I got tired of their coaches saying we didn’t have a good receiver. So I had to show them we did have one,” Thomas said.
The rushing game was still the dominant force behind the team’s offense. Sophomore Jonathan Dwyer had his own career day, rushing for 159 yards on 23 carries.
While the Jackets went on to win by a comfortable margin, they struggled to put points on the board in the first half. On the first drive, Shaw fumbled a ball deep in Duke territory on the opening drive.
“I thought the biggest play of the first half was when we fumbled the ball…. [We then] allowed them to make two or three first downs and flip the whole field. Then they punt us back out inside our [own] five,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.
The Jackets struggled to score points for the rest of the half, settling on a 20 yard field goal during the second quarter. Tech’s defensive dominance was able to mitigate many of the troubles the offense encountered, holding Duke to just four first downs in the first half. The score was 3-0 at half time, despite Tech significantly out gaining Duke in nearly every offensive category.
“It’s really easy to be a quarterback in this offense when you got a defense like we do. They bailed us out in the first half. We had these long drives and drove it down the field, and we’d end up turning it over. Duke would get the ball and they’d go three and out, and we’d get the ball right back. It’s real easy when you’ve got the front four we have on the defensive line and rest of the defense,” Shaw said.
Tech’s offense began scoring touchdowns in the second half, regularly getting into the endzone. Freshman A-back Roddy Jones scored on a 4-yard run on the second drive of the third quarter to stretch the lead to 10. A run by Jaybo Shaw and Thomas’ long touchdown catch added to the productive second half and turned the close game into a blow-out.
“We made a couple of adjustments…. To be quite honest with you, it wasn’t any big deal. We were struggling inside… We didn’t get very many people on the ground,” Johnson said.
The defense performed as well as they did in the first half, stopping Duke from gaining a first down until the fourth quarter. The unit held Duke to nine first downs and 132 yards in the game. This total was the third least yardage Tech has held an opponent to in its ACC play history. Many of the yards were gained during the remaining minutes of the game when the outcome had been all but decided.
“We worked hard during the bye week, and the defense was on a mission today. There were some question marks out there about us. We weren’t as good as the past defenses that have been here. Not good against the run. Not good against the pass. So we wanted to make a point today,” said sophomore cornerback Mario Butler.
Despite the little trouble Tech had moving the ball, they made some errors that could have helped build an even larger lead. On two of the fourth downs the offense lined up for in the second half, Tech was penalized for a false start that cost them five yards. Both situations were short yard situations in Duke territory and led to punts.
Tech lined for five fourth down attempts in total, and converted only one of the three they attempted. They had the same number of fourth down attempts as they did punts. Tech is now four-for-eight on the season for fourth-down conversions.
Sophomore place kicker/ punter Scott Blair made two field goals and hit all three points after the touchdown.
Tech finished with 454 yards, over triple Duke’s offensive output, and 21 first downs, more than twice the number of Duke first downs. Tech averaged nearly seven plays per drive to keep the mostly ineffective Duke offense off the field. The Blue Devils had the ball for 20 minutes of the game, and had seven three-and-out drives. The margin of victory was greater than last year, when Tech visited Durham and easily won, 41-24.
Tech plays their next game against Gardner Webb tomorrow at 3:30 in their last out of conference game until Georgia.