Go ahead and add another chapter to the lore of Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas.
The senior came away with a career-best 459 yards of total offense Saturday, bettering his former high by 106 yards, and helped the Yellow Jackets avoid a major meltdown and beat Duke 38-35.
It was the most yards accumulated by a Georgia Tech player since quarterback George Godsey had a program-record 477 against Virginia in 2001.
Thomas completed 10-of-14 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 17 times for a career-best 195 yards and two touchdowns. It is the first time that Thomas has both run and thrown for 100 yards in the same game since the 2014 Orange Bowl.
Thomas became the 39th player in FBS history with 4,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards. He is the fourth ACC player to accomplish the feat, joining Clemson’s Woody Dantzler, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor and North Carolina’s Marquise Williams.
Georgia Tech (5-3, 2-3 ACC) remains alive in its longshot quest to reach the ACC Championship. The Yellow Jackets play Coastal Division leaders North Carolina and Virginia on the road in the next two weeks.
Four who mattered
A.J. Gray: The Georgia Tech safety led the team with nine tackles and forced a fumble that saved a touchdown.
Marcus Marshall: Marshall started at B-back when leading rusher Dedrick Mills was unable to clear the concussion protocol. Marshall rushed 13 times for 69 yards, including a 50-yard burst up the middle. But Marshall was injured in the fourth quarter and did not return.
Clinton Lynch: The A-back continues to embellish his reputation as a big-play maker as a receiver. Lynch caught three passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
Daniel Jones: Duke’s fourth-year junior quarterback competed 22-of-36 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a career-best 74 yards.
Georgia Tech was clinging to a 38-35 lead but faced third-and-17 from its own 21 with 2:19 left. Failure to convert would have forced the Yellow Jackets to punt and would have given Duke a good chance to tie or win the game. Thomas kept the ball and was able to avoid the Duke rush and turn the ball up the field for a 50-yard gain. That afforded Georgia Tech the chance to run out the clock.
Georgia Tech has two big-play receivers: Both Ricky Jeune and Brad Stewart were impressive in hookups with Thomas. Jeune caught three passes for 85 yards and Stewart caught three passes for 70 yards, including a 50-yarder.
Finally some takeaways: Georgia Tech forced three turnovers — two fumbles and an interception. The Yellow Jackets entered the game with only six takeaways for the season. Despite Duke’s largess, Georgia Tech was unable to turn any of the gifts into points.
Defensive woes continue: Despite the takeaways, the Georgia Tech defense continued to have trouble getting off the field. Georgia Tech’s defense allowed Duke to run 73 plays and amass 559 yards. Duke was 8-for-13 on third-down conversions.
Look who got a shutout quarter: The Georgia Tech defense kept Duke off the board in the first quarter. It was the first time Duke hadn’t scored in the opening quarter all season and the first time the Yellow Jackets have kept an opponent off the board in the first quarter since the opener against Boston College.
A.J. with the big play: Duke was about to get back in the game when Jela Duncan broke through the line and headed toward the end zone. But Gray ran him down and stripped the ball away, with Step Durham recovering at the 8.
Order is restored: The win broke a two-game losing streak to Duke and improved Georgia Tech’s lead in the series to 51-32-1.
They said it
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson on performance of Thomas: “They were forcing him to run the ball on the option and he made some runs and he made a couple quarterback draws and was able to get a couple of nice scrambles.”
Johnson on the defense: “A lot of the same problem we have had all year — can’t get off the field defensively.”
Johnson on overall thoughts from the game: “It’s hard to win. It’s really hard to win. There’s a lot of parity in the league. It’s hard to win in this league.”
Georgia Tech plays at North Carolina on Saturday, while Duke hosts Virginia Tech.