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Duke, Cutcliffe await the most prolific rushing attack in the country

Georgia Tech Louisville Football-2

Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall runs during a game against Louisville. Marshall leads the most prolific rushing attack in the country.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Take away the output produced by Duke in its 55-13 thrashing of FCS opponent N.C. Central in September, and Georgia Tech has more points in its last two games than the Blue Devils have all season.

Last week, the Yellow Jackets (3-3, 1-2 ACC) dismantled Louisville — which seems to be a theme in the ACC season’s early going — by a 66-31 score. That was a follow up to what they did against Bowling Green, a 63-17 victory, the week before.

Under the direction of coach Paul Johnson, they are simply optioning teams to death.

That’s what they’ll try and do against Duke (4-1, 0-1 ACC) this Saturday, when the Blue Devils travel to Atlanta for a 12:20 kickoff.

“I think they’re executing what any option offense does really well,” said David Cutcliffe, whose team had last week off after a home loss to Virginia Tech, on Wednesday. “If you look at the balance, they certainly are having success running the fullback. Quarterbacks are running wild, but I think they’re running the option all the way out real well.”

Georgia Tech has the most rushes (337) in the FBS. They have the most yards (2,238) by almost 600. They’ve scored 29 times on the ground, seven more than second-place Cincinnati.

Quarterback TaQuon Marshall has 65 passing attempts, but only eight in his last two games, including two against Louisville, which was the first time since 2000 that a power five program has attempted two or fewer passes in a game, according to ACCSports.com.

Instead, Marshall — who Cutcliffe recruited to play for the Blue Devils — leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 557 yards on 111 carries, first among FBS quarterbacks.

“I think he’s limited his mistakes and played within the system,” said Johnson, on Wednesday, of his run-first quarterback, who had thrown four interceptions before a total commitment to running in the last two games. “He’s quick, and he’s made good decisions.”

Behind him, eight Yellow Jackets have at least 100 yards rushing. Two — Jordan Mason and situational quarterback Tobias Oliver — have more than 400. The modest two-game winning streak, Tech’s first of the season, comes after a 49-21 loss to Clemson on Sept. 22.

“I think Georgia Tech is playing right now as well as anybody I’ve seen, period,” Cutcliffe said.

Clemson, in the distance

Inside the minds of all N.C. State fans exists a win over Clemson two Saturdays from now, where the Wolfpack vault from regional darlings into the national consciousness of college football.

It happened last Saturday with Texas, in which the No. 19 Longhorns upset No. 6 Oklahoma, and found themselves at No. 9 this week in the AP Top 25.

The Wolfpack peaked at No. 14 in 2017 before falling to Notre Dame, then again in a tight battle Clemson, in a two-week schedule blitz.

No. 20 N.C. State and Dave Doeren aren’t daydreaming about poll ascension — not publicly, at least — but have hit the ground game planning for the season-altering matchup on Oct. 20

As is the case each week, Doeren said, he and his staff convened on Monday to create a list of positive and negative plays throughout the season for each contributing player. The respective coaches met with the players that night to review what they’d found. They’ll have seven extra days to eliminate the unsavory aspects.

“It’s kind of a part-to-whole approach where if each player does that, as a team you’re collectively a lot better,” Doeren said.

Dabo pays respect

A few bounces in a few different ways, and a case could be made for N.C. State beating the Tigers two seasons in a row.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney knows that.

“There’s always a lot of juice for this game, both sides,” Swinney said. “Dave has done a really good job, but even before he got there, every time we’ve played N.C. State, you just know it’s going to be a battle.”

The Tigers lead the all-time series, 57-28-1, and haven’t lost to the Wolfpack since 2011, when Tom O’Brien was the coach.

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