Ster­ling de­fense helps Blue Devils stuff Yel­low Jack­ets

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Colleges - BY STEVE WISEMAN swise­[email protected]­sob­server.com

By now, it should come as no sur­prise when Duke plays a solid de­fen­sive game against Ge­or­gia Tech.

The Yel­low Jack­ets run a triple-op­tion of­fense and led the na­tion in rush­ing yards per game at 373 yards per game en­ter­ing Satur­day’s ACC game with Duke at Bobby Dodd Sta­dium.

The Blue Devils, us­ing a de­fen­sive game plan born 11 years ago and honed while coach David Cut­cliffe has turned the Duke pro­gram into a win­ner, stuffed Ge­or­gia Tech like no one else has this sea­son.

In beat­ing Ge­or­gia Tech 28-14, Duke held the Yel­low Jack­ets to their fewest points of the sea­son. Ge­or­gia Tech’s 229 rush­ing yards marked its sec­ond­low­est out­put of the sea­son. Only un­beaten Clem­son, which held Ge­or­gia Tech to 146 rush­ing yards while win­ning 49-21 on Sept. 22, has been more ef­fec­tive.

The Blue Devils recorded nine tack­les for loss in the first half alone. For the game, they al­lowed Ge­or­gia Tech to gain 3.75 yards per carry, far be­low the 6.64 per carry aver­age the Yel­low Jack­ets have in the rest of their games.

Duke works on de­fend­ing the op­tion each spring be­cause Ge­or­gia Tech is an an­nual ACC op­po­nent.

The Blue Devils have also played an­other op­tion team, Army, six times in the last 10 sea­sons, in­clud­ing the last four years in a row.

Duke has played and de­feated yet an­other op­tion team, Navy, three times dur­ing Cut­cliffe’s ten­ure.

“We ba­si­cally have a play­book,” Cut­cliffe said. “We try to make our play­ers fa­mil­iar where they un­der­stand what the ex­pec­ta­tions are.”

It worked well on Satur­day as the Blue Devils (5-1, 1-1 in ACC) beat Ge­or­gia Tech for the fourth time in the last five years.

Red­shirt ju­nior line­backer Joe Giles-Har­ris had 15 tack­les. Se­nior line­backer Ben Humphreys fin­ished with 11.

Ge­or­gia Tech fum­bled six times – with Duke forc­ing four of them – and lost three of them.

Yel­low Jack­ets se­nior quar­ter­back Ta’Quon Mar­shall en­tered Satur­day with 557 rush­ing yards and nine touch­downs, av­er­ag­ing 5.5 yards per carry.

On Oct. 5 at Louisville, Mar­shall rushed for 175 yards with two touch­downs as the Yel­low Jack­ets rocked the Car­di­nals, 66-31.

Against Duke, Mar­shall fin­ished with 41 yards on 16 at­tempts and didn’t score.

“We had guys on de­fense step up and make plays,” Giles-Har­ris said. “Chris Rumph. Dy­lan Sin­gle­ton. Ben Humphreys played a hel­luva game. Our D-line just dom­i­nated. That’s all you can ask for as an inside line­backer when you are play­ing the op­tion.”

One more win will mean a fifth bowl trip in the last six sea­sons for the Blue Devils.

A STAR IS BORN

Red­shirt fresh­man Chris Rumph II showed prom­ise in lim­ited play prior to Satur­day. A 6-3, 225pound de­fen­sive end,

Rumph moved into the start­ing lineup when Koby Quansah broke a bone in his foot dur­ing prac­tice last Wed­nes­day.

Against Ge­or­gia Tech, Rumph had seven tack­les, in­clud­ing four of Duke’s nine tack­les for loss.

Duke uses a 4-2-5, with two start­ing lineback­ers nor­mally but in­serts a third line­backer to stop the triple-op­tion. So Rumph will likely re­turn to a re­serve role the rest of the sea­son.

THE OF­FENSE GOT ENOUGH DONE

Duke looked great on its first pos­ses­sion, driv­ing 52 yards on four plays to score on a 12-yard Deon Jack­son run to take a 7-0 lead.

But the Blue Devils went score­less on their next seven pos­ses­sions, los­ing a fum­ble, throw­ing an in­ter­cep­tion and sur­ren­der­ing the ball on downs by fail­ing on two plays af­ter hav­ing thir­dand-1.

Af­ter half­time, though, the Blue Devils came out de­ter­mined to run the ball. That’s de­spite Jack­son play­ing while in­jured starter Brit­tain Brown missed the game.

Jack­son fin­ished with 98 yards on 21 car­ries with a touch­down. He lost a fum­ble in the fourth quar­ter.

When Ge­or­gia Tech lost three fum­bles in the fi­nal 2:47 of the third quar­ter, Duke took ad­van­tage with Daniel Jones toss­ing touch­down passes to T.J. Rah­ming, Davis Kop­pen­haver and Johnathan Lloyd to give Duke a 28-7 lead.

The Blue Devils ran only 10 plays and gained 117 yards on those three scor­ing drives. But that se­quence won the game for Duke.

GOOD AND BAD IN­JURY NEWS

Start­ing de­fen­sive tackle Edgar Cerenord started and played af­ter sit­ting out Duke’s last two games. But he rup­tured his Achilles ten­don in the sec­ond half and will miss the rest of the sea­son.

Two other de­fen­sive starters, de­fen­sive end Drew Jor­dan and cor­ner­back Michael Carter, started against Ge­or­gia Tech af­ter be­ing out with in­juries.

Wide re­ceiver Aaron Young, who had been slowed by a ham­string in­jury, played for the first time since catch­ing four passes for 114 yards and a touch­down in Duke’s 34-14 win over Army on Aug. 31.

Young caught three passes for 25 yards against Ge­or­gia Tech.

Se­nior cen­ter Zach Harmon started and played for the first time since Duke’s 21-7 win at North­west­ern on Sept. 8. But sopho­more Jack Wohlabaugh re­placed him mid­way through the game against Ge­or­gia Tech.

Brown was lim­ited in prac­tice last week. He was in uni­form at Ge­or­gia Tech but was held out.

JOHN BAZE­MORE AP

Duke de­fen­sive end Chris Rumph II (96) re­cov­ers a Ge­or­gia Tech fum­ble dur­ing the sec­ond half Satur­day in At­lanta. Duke won 28-14.

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