Improved Duke run D preps for test from No. 20 Georgia Tech
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Stopping No. 20 Georgia Tech means finding a way to at least slow down the Yellow Jackets' ground game.
It's time for Duke to give it a try.
The Blue Devils (2-1) are allowing just 93 yards per game on the ground and - if not for one big play they gave up last week - would have a top-10 run defense.
Eight-year Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson calls it ''probably their best defense since I've been here.''
They'll get quite a test this week from the Yellow Jackets (2-1) and a triple-option offense that regularly puts up huge rushing numbers.
They averaged 457 yards rushing in their two wins - but managed just 216 in a loss to No. 8 Notre Dame.
Duke linebacker Zavier Carmichael said Tuesday discipline is key because ''you can easily get lost in the chaos'' of Georgia Tech's system.
Through three games, the Blue Devils have allowed a total of 280 yards rushing. Their run defense ranks fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and tied with Air Force for 16th nationally in the full Bowl Subdivision.
One play last week skewed those stats pretty heavily: They surrendered a 55-yard touchdown run on a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter of a 19-10 loss to No. 17 Northwestern.
If they make that stop at the line of scrimmage for no gain, their per-game average drops to 75 yards - which would be good for 10th in the nation.
''We can't just assume that since we had a great first half, the second half will be the same way,'' Carmichael said. ''We have to keep on putting the steam on and keep applying pressure throughout the game.''
Those numbers figure to go up this week against the run-dominated Yellow Jackets.
The only question is how high.
The Yellow Jackets annually rank among the nation's top rushing teams and this year is no different. Georgia Tech's average of 377 yards on the ground trails only Navy (393).
''They've been the same way for quite some time,'' Duke safety Jeremy Cash said, ''and why try to fix something if it's not broken?''
Duke did a decent job of slowing the Yellow Jackets last year, holding them to 282 yards rushing in a 31-25 victory in Atlanta. Georgia Tech had rolled up at least 300 yards on the ground in every meeting with Duke since 2008 - the Jackets' first season under Johnson.
''They have good athletes,'' Tech quarterback Justin Thomas said. ''They came in here last year with good athletes, and we didn't play up to our potential. So we know they can beat us. We have to go in the with mindset that we have to start fast like the first two games.''
Ultimately, perhaps the most effective way to keep Georgia Tech's offense from running wild is to keep it on the sideline.
''We'd like to put together drives that keeps their offense off the field,'' coach David Cutcliffe said.
AP Sports Writer Paul Newberry in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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