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Duke Football Leaves The Pitt Miss Behind, Moves On To Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets come to Durham 1-4

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Pittsburgh v Duke
 DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 05: Tre Hornbuckle #59 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a sack against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second half of their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. Pittsburgh won 33-30.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There’s an ancient adage about not letting the same game beat you twice.

Duke quarterback Quentin Harris says not to worry.

”I don’t think it even really needs to be discussed. We looked at the tape and we’re not going to dwell on it. We can’t get that back. We’ll learn from our mistakes and move on and just focus on Georgia Tech this Saturday.”

Of course that’s what one would expect him to say.

So, we shall see.

But a few final thoughts before we leave Pitt behind and move forward to the Techsters.

Coaches generally credit their players for the wins and take the blame for the losses; at least the good ones do. I learned that from Gil Thorpe.

But David Cutcliffe is really falling on his sword over this one, focusing on spending too much time in practice working on too many new plays, thus confusing his offense.

“But when you call something that people know, you’re putting them in a better circumstance,” Cutcliffe told the media today. “I got out of my character by adding too many things.”

Harris didn’t disagree.

“We added some new stuff that week and maybe weren’t as familiar with it as we needed to have been. But we settled down and started going back to what had been good for us, bread-and-butter plays. . . . Getting back to some of our core concepts was definitely beneficial for us but we’re definitely ready to tackle new plays too but need to come with a more voracious mind set each week when those new plays to go in.”

And Duke did get some clarification on that “inadvertent signal.”

“We requested that,” Cutcliffe said. “What occurred was this official sees the lack of what he thinks is forward motion and at that point you can blow a play dead. But obviously it wasn’t. There was a push . . . That’s all we got. It’s a mistake.”

On to the Jackets.

There’s a weird dynamic at work in this game. Tech is a Coastal Division rival, which means Cutcliffe has squared off against them every year he’s been here

But Paul Johnson is gone, along with his triple-option offense, replaced by Geoff Collins and his more conventional, pro-style offense. So, Duke has seen a lot of the players but not the schemes.

Except Duke did play Temple last December in the Independence Bowl. Collins didn’t coach in that game but Temple still ran the same schemes.

But not with ACC-level athletes.

“Our game against Temple last year with a similar system is going to help us a little bit in terms of preparation,” Harris said “but they have athletic guys that are going to be there for the Georgia Tech defense. I think personnel is the biggest thing from our Temple game. The biggest thing is getting used to their athleticism.”

Further complicating matters for Duke is the fact that Tech started redshirt freshman quarterback James Graham last week and figures to start him this week. But Cutcliffe says Tech is going to run the same system regardless of who’s at quarterback.

Tech has an offensive line that was recruited to run block and now they are being asked to pass block. Duke defensive end Victor Dimukeje smiles and notes “It’s going to be fun to see how good of a job they do.”

Duke obviously can’t turn it over six times and expect to win.

“Those are going to happen sometimes,” Harris said, “especially when you’re making some aggressive plays. Communication with the line, making sure they pick up the right guys. I can make better decisions with the ball, for sure.”

Cutcliffe said Duke needed to get rid of the ball sooner on two of the strip-sacks.

On the other side of the ball, Duke wants to build on the four turnovers it forced against the Panthers.

“We worked all summer on forcing interceptions, fumbles, sacks,” Dimukeje said. “It’s good to see that paying off. We hope that continues into the future.”

Duke also needs to get more from tight end Noah Gray, who had only two catches for 18 yards.

“They definitely made it an emphasis to double team him across the middle but the one nice thing about our offense is that it is so versatile you don’t have to rely on just one guy,” Harris said. “But he’ll be a big part of moving forward.”

Cutcliffe added that Duke needs to do a better job of moving Gray around to avoid double teams.

Make no mistake; this is a big game. Cutcliffe noted that Duke now has one home ACC loss and cannot afford another. It’s hard to chart a plausible scenario for a winning season without a win over a 1-4 visitor and there’s no question Harris’ optimism about shaking off the Pitt loss will have to be confirmed on the field.

NOTES

Reserve wide receiver Jarrett Garner had surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee and will sit out the remainder of the 2019 season.

Duke and Georgia Tech have played every year since 1933. Only North Carolina and Wake Forest have appeared more often on Duke’s schedule.

Duke receiver Jalon Calhoun has attempted one pass this season. He completed it for a 25-yard touchdown. His passing efficiency rating is 640.

Duke receiver Aaron Young has attempted one pass this season. It was intercepted. His passing efficiency rating is -200. That is minus 200. As in what-were-they-thinking?

Austin Parker is at just plain zero, after his unsuccessful pass on Saturday’s fake punt.

Some perspective. Harris’ rating is 134.71.

A.J. Reed continues to be perfect on the season, 6-for-6 on field goals, 18-for-18 on PATs.

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