ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia Tech's players couldn't wait to begin
looking ahead to the coming weeks, with three games that will
define the Yellow Jackets' season.
Chan Gailey gave them a head start.
Gailey pulled his starters after the first half of Saturday's
lopsided 49-21 win over Duke as No. 18 Georgia Tech gained momentum
for its Atlantic Coast Conference championship drive.
The starters watched the second half as their thoughts moved
ahead to next week's attempt to end a five-year losing streak to
state rival Georgia, followed by the Dec. 2 ACC championship game
in Jacksonville and then a bowl trip.
"This is what we worked so hard in the summer for, to finish at
the end," said Choice, who rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown.
"These next three games can be some of the biggest games in
Georgia Tech history."
Tech clinched the ACC's Coastal Division title with last week's
7-0 win at North Carolina, but that unimpressive offensive effort
led to more criticisms than compliments. The offense responded
against Duke: Ball threw three touchdown passes, including two to
Johnson, in the second quarter.
Backup quarterback Taylor Bennett added two touchdown passes to
Greg Smith in the third quarter as Georgia Tech gained 462 yards
and scored its most points since beating Syracuse 51-14 in the 2004
Champs Sports Bowl.
The combined five touchdown passes tied a school record.
"It was a great day," Gailey said. "I thought our guys went
out there and learned from last week that you can't just go out and
play, you have to play your best."
After the game, talk in the Tech locker room quickly moved from
Duke to Georgia and the ACC championship game.
"I believe they've had that in mind for about the last month,
and I believe they know exactly what's at stake and they're excited
about getting it done," Gailey said.
Tech (9-2, 7-1) held Duke to 41 yards rushing on 26 carries. The
Blue Devils committed four turnovers.
Duke (0-11, 0-7) must beat North Carolina next week to avoid its
first winless season since 2001. Duke has the nation's longest
losing streak at 19 games, has lost 23 consecutive ACC games and 29
straight conference road games.
Ball, a senior playing in his final home game, had his first
pass picked off by John Talley, who leads the ACC with seven
interceptions. It gave Duke the ball on Tech's 22. The Blue Devils
couldn't take advantage; Raphael Chesnut dropped a would-be
touchdown pass before Joe Surgan's 27-yard field goal attempt was
wide to the right.
"We had a chance to gain some momentum there after getting a
takeaway on the very first play," said Duke coach Ted Roof. "We
had a guy that was getting ready to score a touchdown and, again, a
missed opportunity. We've got to find a way to make those plays."
Tech seized the opening.
Choice gained 16 and 46 yards on his first two runs before
scoring from the 3 for a 7-0 lead.
In the key matchup of the game, Duke's Talley was assigned to
cover Johnson, and Johnson won most of the second-quarter matchups.
Johnson beat Talley for a 46-yard reception from Ball late in
the first quarter. The bomb set up Johnson's 10-yard scoring catch
-- again against Talley -- on the first play of the second quarter
for a 14-0 lead.
Ball's second TD pass was deflected by Duke cornerback Deonto
McCormick and caught by James Johnson in the end zone.
Calvin Johnson's second TD catch came after Blue Devils
quarterback Thaddeus Lewis lost a fumble at their own 26. Johnson
outjumped Talley to make a 19-yard catch for a 28-0 lead.
"Calvin certainly made a couple of great plays," Roof said.
"He just went up and got them when only one person could catch
Duke scored the first TD allowed by Tech's defense in three
games on Tielor Robinson's 13-yard pass from Lewis late in the
Tech freshman Jamaal Evans added a 21-yard TD run in the fourth
quarter and finished with 89 yards rushing.
Gailey normally spends Sunday's reviewing game film. That
routine may change this week.
"We'll probably ditch this game pretty early tomorrow," he
said, "and get right on to the Georgia game."
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