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DURHAM, N.C. (goduke.com) -- Senior running back Shaquille Powell rushed for three touchdowns and the Duke defense held Georgia Tech to less than 200 rushing yards for the first time in 17 games as Duke won its ACC opener by upsetting the No. 20 Yellow Jackets, 34-20.
Duke (3-1, 1-0) safety Jeremy Cash led the team with 12 tackles, including three tackles for loss. The Miami, Fla., native also contributed four quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles, which helped keep Georgia Tech (2-2, 0-1) off balance for a majority of the game. In his first career start, linebacker Tinashe Bere also contributed a career-high 10 tackles, including six solo stops, while senior Dwayne Norman added nine tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
The Duke special teams also had an outstanding performance as DeVon Edwards returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown - his second of the season and Duke-record fifth of his career - and punt returner Ryan Smith had a career-long 69-yard punt return to the one yard line that led to a touchdown.
Duke’s offensive unit had a strong showing in the first quarter. After a Georgia Tech field goal opened scoring, the Blue Devils earned their first points on Powell’s first of three rushing touchdowns, a four-yard rush up the middle to make the score 7-3. During the scoring drive, Powell carried the ball seven times for 42 yards.
Duke’s second touchdown came through the air as quarterback Thomas Sirk connected with T.J. Rahming on an 11-yard pass for the latter’s first career touchdown catch, increasing the Blue Devil lead to 13-3. The 48-yard drive was highlighted by a 32-yard pass from Sirk to Max McCaffrey.
The first quarter ended with Smith’s 69-yard punt return, which saw pushed out of bounds at the one yard line. Powell punched the ball in to earn his second rushing touchdown of the game, bringing the score to 19-3.
The Duke defense was also strong in the early going, holding Georgia Tech to just 56 yards of total offense and three first downs in the opening period.
Late in the second quarter, the Georgia Tech found the end zone as Justin Thomas connected with Ricky Jeune on a 10-yard pass with 30 seconds left in the half, making the first half score 19-10. The play capped a 12-play, 74-yard drive for the Yellow Jackets.
Early in the third quarter, Georgia Tech intercepted Sirk at the Duke 40 yard line. Four plays later, the Yellow Jackets converted a field goal to make the score 19-13.
The momentum returned to the Blue Devils on the ensuing kickoff, as Edwards took the kick 100 yards to pay dirt to bring the score to 26-13.
The next Georgia Tech drive was halted by a Breon Borders interception at the Duke 33-yard line. The interception was his first of the season and eighth of his career.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech narrowed Duke’s lead to 26-20 after an 11-play, 88-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by Thomas.
On Duke’s next possession, Sirk’s pass was intercepted by Georgia Tech on the Duke 30 yard line. However, the Blue Devil defense stepped up again and forced a turnover on downs, stopping GT on 4th-and-1 deep in their own territory with less than five minutes on the clock.
After a Duke three-and-out, the Blue Devils’ defense stepped up one more time as Cash forced a Georgia Tech fumble , which was recovered by defensive end Britton Grier at the GT 39 yard line.
Powell’s third and final rushing touchdown of the game was his longest at 30 yards and brought the final score to 34-20 after Sirk connected with McCaffrey on the two point conversion.
Duke continues its homestand against Boston College next Saturday, Oct. 3. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m., at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium.