Being an under-dog in your own backyard is the ultimate “slap in the face,” but that’s the scenario when you get blown out a week prior eight miles away from your home turf. Giving up big plays, missed tackles and a lack of effort were just a portion of the problems against Sam Howell and UNC. All you can do is move on to the next opponent and protect your home-field at Wallace Wade where you’re 3-0 on the season.
Duke looks to avoid a two-game slide as they face the Yellow Jackets and their high-octane offense led by Jeff Simms who will pose lots of problems, if the Blue Devils don’t show up.
As Cutcliffe mentioned after the loss to the Tar Heels:
“Let’s not make one loss become two.”
In order for Duke to protect it’s homefield, they will have to stop big plays in the secondary and flat-out compete. Georgia Tech is better than their record, and as shown against UNC, the Yellow Jackets could have their way with Duke’s secondary – that has been a weak spot their last 2 games.
Containment and tackling within the secondary are points of emphasis Cutcliffe focused on this week stating, “solutions occur in the planning and the solutions occur on the practice field.”
Whether or not the solutions are the final product remains to be seen for a defense that gave up 38 points a week ago. This same defense faces a quarterback in Simms who threw for 359 yards with two scores versus Pittsburgh. Shaka Heyward will be playing a lot of quarterback spy on Simms, who like Gunnar Holmberg, isn’t shy about calling his own number to keep the chains moving.
Even in defeat, Georgia Tech had three receivers with five catches each, led by Jahmyr Gibbs who gave the Panthers nightmares with 6 catches and 125 yards – averaging 20 yards a catch.
When it Rains it Pours
They’re expecting showers throughout the game and which means there’s no better chance than to feed Mataeo Durant who ranks second in the league in rushing yards. Durant has been exceptional this year, despite defenses stacking the box with seven, sometimes eight defenders. Durant ranks fourth in all of FBS with nine touchdowns.
Can Duke mix it up on passing downs? You become predictable running a split receiver set on three straight possessions. Duke, throughout the first half of their loss to the Tar Heels, ran the same formations with Jake Bobo catching screen passes, but going for little to no gain. That put Duke at a disadvantage on the road on 3rd and long. The play action pass was nonexistent and due to being down so big late in the 3rd, the scheme changed. The Yellow Jackets have speed on the outside led by Quez Jackson and Tre Swilling, who combined for eight tackles and 10 assist tackles a week ago.
If the Blue Devils hope to avoid a 2-game skid in the ACC, they have to protect the ball, contain Jeff Simms, control time of possession and mix the play calling. UNC was able to predict where Duke would go on 3rd down a week prior, will the Yellow Jackets be able to do the same?