ATLANTA -- There won’t be a quarterback controversy, regardless of how well Tim Byerly played Saturday afternoon.
Byerly got the call when starter Justin Thomas had to leave the game with a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter. Byerly responded by leading the Yellow Jackets to a pair of touchdowns and got the Georgia Tech close in a 31-25 loss to Duke.
Byerly completed 7-of-10 passes for 125 yards and rushed six times for 30 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Thomas.
“I thought he came in and played well,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “He didn’t surprise me. I expected him to play that way. That’s the way he practiced in the spring and fall. We just haven’t had a chance to get him in the games many times because they’ve all been don’t-miss-your-turn games. I thought he did some good things. He showed some strength and made some big plays.”
Thomas turned his ankle before the end of the first half but tried to play through the pain. Johnson pulled Thomas after his second interception.
Byerly had not played in the first two ACC games and had not thrown a pass all season.
Safety Corey Griffin was ejected in the first quarter when he was called for targeting receiver Shaun Williams after a 29-yard gain. The hit was hard but did not appear to be particularly high or near the head.
“I didn’t see it,” Johnson said. “It looked like to me that he hit the guy in the chest. I didn’t see it on tape, so I don’t have any idea. That was a killer on second-and-28 or something.”
Georgia Tech also allowed Duke to convert on a third-and-26.
There were two minutes left in the halftime when both teams were ushered back into the locker room because lightning had been spotted in the area. There was a 77-minute delay before the game could resume.
Georgia Tech players refused to use the additional delay as a excuse for their performance in the second half.
“Those guys wanted it more than us,” linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said. “We knew what was at stake, and they know what was at stake. They went out there and played their butts off and were able to come out with the win. I give credit where it’s due. They came out and fought hard. We just have to learn from our mistakes and move on.”
Wide receiver Darren Waller had a career-best five catches for 96 yards. He had 70 receiving yards in the final 8:13. ... Redshirt freshman Eason Fromayan started at left tackle in place of Bryan Chamberlain. It was the first time there was a new starter on the offensive line all season. ... A-back Deon Hill had career highs with three receptions and 48 yards. ... Georgia Tech hits the road to play North Carolina at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Duke returns home for a game with Virginia.