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November 18, 2006The game began with a bang for Duke, but in the end, the Devils again went bust as Georgia Tech capitalized on Duke miscues to overwhelm the Devils 49-21 in Atlanta.
Playing shorthanded after being hit hard by injuries last week, Duke had a chance early to make a quick dent on the scoreboard.
Senior cornerback John Talley intercepted Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball on the first play from scrimmage.
The All-ACC defensive back returned the interception inside the Yellow Jacket 20-yard line, and after Duke picked up a first down via penalty, it looked like the Blue Devils were primed to go up early.
It all fizzled out quickly though, as Raphael Chestnut couldn't hold onto what likely would have been a touchdown and kicker Joe Surgan pushed a 27-yard field goal attempt wide right.
The missed opportunity seemed to deflate the entire Duke team, because Georgia Tech wasted no time in marching 80 yards to take a 7-0 lead when Tashard Choice scored on a three yard run.
Choice dominated the entire drive, carrying the ball five of the six plays and gaining all 80 yards against Duke's defense.
The game continued to deteriorate for the Devils throughout most of the rest of the first half.
With Thaddeus Lewis on the sideline briefly following a minor injury, Clifford Harris entered the game at quarterback and threw an interception on his second play under center with 4:09 remaining in the first quarter.
10 plays later, Ball connected with All-American receiver Calvin Johnson on third-and-goal from from the 10-yard line to push the margin out to 14-0.
Ball would throw another two touchdown passes in the final minutes of the first half, the first one going to James Johnson on a 37-yard throw against Duke's Deonto McCormick.
Duke got the ball back with under six minutes left in the half when disaster struck the offense.
Lewis took off with the football on the first play of the drive for what would have been about a five yard gain but had the ball sripped by Georgia Tech safety Jamal Lewis.
The Yellow Jackets fell on the football and Ball hit Calvin Johnson again just three plays later to make the score 28-0 and effectively bury Duke before halftime.
The Blue Devils got on the board before the half on the next series on the strength of three receptions by Chestnut for 46 yards.
Following a personal foul penalty on the Jackets, Duke had a first down from the 13-yard line, where Lewis connected with Tielor Robinson, who refused to be denied after the catch and plunged his way into the end zone to crack the scoreboard for the Devils.
The second half started ominously for Duke as Georgia Tech quickly went on top 35-7 even without Ball and other starters in the game.
Duke struck back with deep threat Eron Riley, who caught a 47-yard touchdown on Duke's second possession of the half to pull the Devils back within 21 points at 35-14.
A crucial mistake by Lewis took away any remaining chance of a rally though, as the freshman threw a poor third down pass on Duke's next series that was intercepted and gave Georgia Tech the ball at the Duke 26-yard line.
With backup quarterback Taylor Bennett at the controls, Georgia Tech quickly capitalized with a 25-yard pass to Greg Smith.
Duke's final score of the game came on a 23-yard reverse to Ronnie Drummer early in the fourth quarter, but Duke's turnovers and defensive struggles against a potent Georgia Tech offense never gave the Devils a real chance in the game.
Georgia Tech totaled 462 yards of offense and Duke's run defense was victimized for the fourth straight week as the Devils surrendered 214 yards on the ground.
Surgan's season long troubles for Duke may have come to an end following his missed field goal try on Duke's first possession.
Backup kicker Randy DeSmyter replaced Surgan and kicked all three of Duke's extra points, though Surgan continued his duties as Duke's kickoff specialist.
Offensively, Riley highlighted the day for Duke. The sophomore wideout got loose behind the Yellow Jacket secondary on a couple of occasions, including his touchdown catch, and finished the game with 99 yards on three receptions.
Without injured running back Justin Boyle, Duke's ground game was completely shut down.
Running behind an offensive line that was missing left tackle Cameron Goldberg, Requan Boyette and Clifford Harris totaled just 32 combined yards on 15 carries.
Without Drummer's touchdown run, Duke only ran for 18 yards.
Codey Lowe led Duke's defense with eight tackles, and safety Adrian Aye-Darko joined Talley in the interception column.
Duke fell to 0-11 on the year and the Devils now have just one more chance to get a victory in 2006 when Duke hosts North Carolina next Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.