The Tech offense was firing on all cylinders when Tech won last Saturday against the Duke Blue Devils. Sophomore quarterback Vad Lee passed for four touchdowns and ran in another, accounting for 35 of Tech’s 38 points. Tech spoiled the chance of Duke being 3-0 for the first time since 1994 and really beat down a very solid Duke defense.
“They came out in new sets, things that we hadn’t practiced against, things we hadn’t seen,” said Duke defensive end Kenny Anunike in the post-game press conference.
Anunike is referring to the new diamond formation which has been the talk of Tech since the weekend. Tech had never run out of the diamond formation until Saturday. The diamond is basically the same as Tech’s usual flexbone formation, except that the A-backs line up beside the quarterback, who is in shotgun, and the B-back, who is behind the quarterback. The San-Francisco 49ers have actually run this formation recently, and it is a new wrinkle which will make the Tech offense even more difficult to prepare for. Just like in the flexbone, Tech can run the dive play and the triple option out of the diamond formation.
Lee became the first Tech quarterback under Paul Johnson to pass for four touchdowns and was the first since Reggie Ball to achieve that feat. Most college football followers were surprised to see Tech display such an aerial attack, but these numbers are here to stay with Lee at the helm. In the past, Tech has not been able to establish a passing game and, with the state of its rush offense, the potential is sky high this year with a much improved passing game.
DeAndre Smelter recorded his first reception as a Yellow Jacket in the game. Smelter, who is a former baseball player, is playing in his first season, already scoring two touchdowns against Duke. Smelter has the size, speed and intangibles to be a star at Tech. He is starting to be on the NFL radar and Coach Johnson knows the potential he has.
“I think DeAndre Smelter has a ton of ability,” Johnson said. “The more he plays football, the better he’s going to be.”
Lee returned to his hometown of Durham for the game, playing in front of more than 70 friends and family.
“Everywhere I looked in stands, I saw people I know,” Lee said.
Lee had 22 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown to go along with 125 passing yards and four touchdowns, completing eight out of 16 passes.
“I would say it was probably the most emotional game because I know a lot of those guys,” Lee said.
There is still room for improvement in the passing game as a couple of those passing attempts were dropped balls and another couple were overthrown.
“We left some points out there. We can get better and we’ll need to be ready for North Carolina,” Lee said.
However, Lee showed how deadly the Tech offense can be when he checks down to his second target. The offensive line did well in pass protection, not allowing any sacks. Countless times, he hit running back Robbie Godhigh on very accurate throws at the sideline.
The most impressive part of the game was Tech going 74 yards in 1:02 with only 1:44 on the clock before halftime. Even though running the ball is the major part of the Tech offense, the two minute drill was executed perfectly in just five plays. Johnson continues to show up the critics who said Tech would never be able to run an effective two-minute drill passing the ball. Even though Tech scored 38 points and won by 24, Johnson was not satisfied and knows there is room to improve.
“I didn’t feel like we played particularly well on offense at Duke,” Johnson said. “I still think we left a lot of points on the field and we could have played a lot better in the first half. There were some plays we had chances to put the game way out of reach and we let them kind of hang around. Against good teams you won’t get second and third chances.”
Lee and junior offensive guard Shaquille Mason were both awarded ACC Player of the Week for their positions because of their performance against Duke.