ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech interim coach Brent Key has begun to instill a winning culture that eluded his predecessor, Geoff Collins, for over three years.
“We went from trying not to lose and now we’re learning how to win," Key said. “That’s a valuable lesson that these guys can take to the next game."
Quarterback Jeff Sims ran for 95 yards and threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with an undisclosed injury on the first play of overtime and Georgia Tech held on for a 23-20 victory over Duke on Saturday night.
The Yellow Jackets (3-3, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won two straight for the first time since they beat Miami and Virginia in November 2018. A 26-21 win last week at then-No. 24 Pittsburgh snapped a nine-game losing streak against FBS opponents.
A week after stopping a 13-game ACC skid, Duke (4-2, 1-1) floundered most of the game until Sahmir Hagans’ 81-yard punt return for a touchdown down the right sideline pulled the Blue Devils within 20-13 with 5:55 remaining.
The Jackets lost leading receiver Nate McCollum, who had eight catches for a career-high 101 yards, to an injury with 5:45 left in the game. They quickly punted, and Hagans ran the ball back 50 yards to the Georgia Tech 44. But a fourth down from the 39 resulted in LaMiles Brooks’ pass breakup on a drag route.
Georgia Tech’s defense had to make one last stand in regulation but couldn’t overcome three 15-yard penalties that advanced Duke to the 2, before tight end Nicky Dalmolin hauled in a TD catch to send the game to overtime.
“It was positive," McCollum said. “Everyone was lifting each other up. There was nothing negative going around. Everybody was saying, ‘Let’s take it and let’s win.’ ”
The Jackets took a 23-20 lead in overtime on Gavin Stewart’s 37-yard field goal. On Duke’s lone possession of overtime, an offensive pass interference call against the Devils pushed the ball back to the 34 and Charlie Ham was short on a 52-yard kick to end it.
Georgia Tech outgained Duke 407 yards to 272 in total offense in regulation.
The Blue Devils entered averaging 35 points per game, fifth-best in the ACC.
Duke: Lost momentum from last week’s 38-17 home win over Virginia as the offense repeatedly stalled. A win would’ve given the Blue Devils their best start in the ACC since 2015. Instead, they drop into the middle of the pack in the Coastal Division. Leading receiver Jordan Calhoun was hurt early in the game and didn’t return.
“The reality is we just didn't make enough plays to win a game on the road in the ACC," Duke coach Mike Elko said. “We've got to execute better; we've got to be able to run the football a little bit better; we've got to be able to make some more plays on defense."
Georgia Tech: Key has found a formula that works. He has eschewed Collins’ “Above the line” list for a traditional depth chart and ditched Collins’ peppy “money down” calls for third downs on defense. Despite tens of thousands of empty seats, the atmosphere was charged by a reinvigorated fan base who were tired of losing.
Duke: Hosts North Carolina next Saturday.
Georgia Tech: The Jackets play Virginia at home on Oct. 20.
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