ATLANTA (AP) — Justin Thomas weaved through the Duke defense on a 50-yard run, finally clinching a Georgia Tech win with less than 2 minutes remaining.
After ending the crucial run with a slide, Thomas rose to walk back to his teammates with the added swagger that showed he knew this had been a special day.
Thomas ran and threw for a combined 459 yards with four touchdowns and Georgia Tech recovered after blowing a three-touchdown lead to beat Duke 38-35 on Saturday.
“I’m out there trying to have fun, just enjoying the moment, embracing it,” Thomas said.
Thomas ran for a career-high 195 yards with two touchdowns and threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He became the first Georgia Tech player with 400 yards of total offense since George Godsey’s school-record 477 yards against Virginia in 2001.
“Hats off to Justin Thomas,” said Duke linebacker Ben Humphreys. “It’s probably the best game he’s had in his career. Watching on film, he’s a different player in person.”
Duke coach David Cutcliffe said he told Thomas after the game “‘Young man, you played like a senior.'”
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Duke’s defense forced Thomas to keep the ball on option plays.
“I thought he played very well today,” Johnson said. “He made plays.”
Said Thomas: “It’s just me trying to be aggressive.”
Georgia Tech (5-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a streak of two straight losses to Duke (3-5, 0-4).
Duke running back Jela Duncan, who ran for two touchdowns, suffered a lower leg injury that Cutcliffe said “appears to be season-ending.”
Cutcliffe called the injury news “really just gut-wrenching.”
After trailing 28-7 at halftime, Duke took advantage of two Georgia Tech turnovers and a fourth-down stop to score 28 of the next 31 points for a 35-31 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Daniel Jones’ 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Helm gave the Blue Devils the lead. It was Helm’s second touchdown catch.
Thomas and the Yellow Jackets had a quick answer. Thomas was chased out of the Georgia Tech end zone for a 46-yard run before completing a 21-yard touchdown pass to Clinton Lynch.
FOURTH AND NONE: No team has converted a fourth down on Duke’s defense this season. Add Georgia Tech to the list after Marcus Allen was stopped on a fourth-and-1 run early in the fourth quarter. It was the ninth straight fourth-down stop for Duke. Georgia Tech’s offense is 8 for 15 on fourth-down conversions.
Georgia Tech running back J.J. Green couldn’t put weight on his right leg and was helped to the locker room in the third quarter. Georgia Tech announced Green wouldn’t return but provided no other update on his injury.
Duke: The Blue Devils showed heart in not giving up after it appeared Georgia Tech put the game away in the first half. Though overshadowed by Thomas, Jones also posted big numbers as he passed for 305 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 73 yards. But the Blue Devils couldn’t overcome three first-half turnovers, including Duncan’s two lost fumbles.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets were hurt by their inability to make a third-down stop, a continued problem that stands in the way of Georgia Tech’s hopes of competing for the Coastal Division title. Georgia Tech is last in the ACC in third-down defense and Duke was successful on eight of 13 third downs. Georgia Tech allowed a season-high 559 yards.
Duke: The Blue Devils will try again for their first ACC win when they return to Durham to play No. 25 Virginia Tech next Saturday.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets begin a stretch of two straight road games against Top 25 teams when they play at No. 21 North Carolina next week.
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