DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Adonicas Sanders caught a 36-yard touchdown throw from Jeff Sims with 51 seconds left to help Georgia Tech rally past Duke 31-27 on Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets (3-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) were coming off an ugly home loss to Pittsburgh. But they responded by earning their first win here since 2013, and have matched their win total from each of the past two seasons.
“I thought our guys battled,” Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins said. “They fought. We were decimated at certain positions. And it didn’t matter. We just kept rolling guys through to find a way to get the win. Just really proud of the way they stuck together.”
Trailing 27-24, Georgia Tech got the ball with 1:42 left and no timeouts at their own 12-yard line. But Sims targeted Sanders for the two big plays on the go-ahead drive, first when he beat Jeremiah Lewis deep down the right side for a 37-yard gain.
Then came Sanders catch at the goalline, securing the deep ball despite Lewis committing a pass-interference penalty in a desperate attempt to break up the pass.
Those were Sanders’ only catches Saturday.
Duke (3-3, 0-2) had a final drive that crossed midfield, but Juanyeh Thomas intercepted an overthrown ball from Gunnar Holmberg over the middle with 15 seconds left to seal this one.
Mataeo Durant handled a record-setting workload to lead the Blue Devils. He ran 43 times for 152 yards and a touchdown, breaking a program single-game mark for most carries that had stood for nearly 51 years.
But Duke squandered multiple chances, from two missed field goals from Charlie Ham to being stuffed on fourth-and-short at the Georgia Tech 20-yard line in the first quarter.
“No magic formula to this,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Getting what you want out of your team consistently falls on me. I do know what a well-coached football team looks like. We have to do the things to arrive there or we’re going to have this same story that everybody’s getting tired of, including me, time and time again.”
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets appeared to have earned a breakthrough win under Collins two weeks ago when they routed a ranked North Carolina team that was the preseason Coastal Division favorite, only to suffer the blowout home loss to the Panthers.
Duke: The Blue Devils had won three straight, with two against power-conference opponents Northwestern and Kansas, before last weekend’s 38-7 loss at rival North Carolina. They did well enough in plenty of areas to win this one, with Holmberg’s late interception marking their only turnover while running the ball effectively (62 times for 197 yards) to control the clock. It just didn’t result in a win.
Durant entered the game in the top five of the Bowl Subdivision ranks in rushing and did nothing to hurt his average in a workhorse performance.
Durant’s longest gain on the day was 11 yards, and he shook off substitutions to stay in the game multiple times. He broke the previous Duke single-game record of 42 carries, set by Art Bosetti against South Carolina in November 1970.
It marked the second time this year Durant has set a record in a losing effort, going back to his program-record output of 255 yards rushing in the season opener at Charlotte.
“The stats are cool but I’d rather have a win than just a personal stat any time,” Durant said.
Sims threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions for Georgia Tech, which scored the game’s first 14 points but found itself in a tight finish to the final seconds.
One of those three scoring throws was a 77-yard pass to Jahmyr Gibbs – who was left completely uncovered coming out of the backfield for an easy catch-and-run on the left side on the Yellow Jackets’ first possession.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have an open weekend followed by a trip to Virginia on Oct. 23 in a Coastal Division matchup.
Duke: The Blue Devils stay in the division with a trip to Virginia next Saturday.
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