ATLANTA (AP) — After having to endure an unexpected four-week layoff, Jeff Sims played like he was determined to make up for lost time.
Sims threw three touchdown passes and ran for 108 yards, setting career highs, and Georgia Tech beat turnover-plagued Duke 56-33 on Saturday night as each team returned from long layoffs.
Led by Sims, the freshman quarterback, Georgia Tech (3-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) ended a three-game losing streak.
Freshman Jahmyr Gibbs had touchdown runs of 61 and 26 yards in the first half before leaving with an apparent hamstring injury.
“When he got hurt, he came up and told me to finish the game, do what you do,” said Sims of Gibbs. “I told him ‘I’ve got you.’”
Thanks to Sims and Jordan Mason, who ran for 105 yards, Georgia Tech had 377 yards rushing even with Gibbs missing the second half.
Sims completed 13 of 23 passes for 146 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also hurt Duke’s defense with his 12 carries, including some third-down runs to extend drives.
“I think he played his best game,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe of Sims.
Chase Brice threw two scoring passes for Duke (2-7, 1-7), but the Blue Devils had five turnovers, including four lost fumbles.
Each team was returning from long layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Duke was playing for the first time since a 56-24 loss to North Carolina on Nov. 7, and depth problems prevented the Blue Devils from having scrimmages while they tried to stay sharp for the next game.
Cutcliffe said the time away from live tackling hurt his team’s ability to finish plays.
“There’s nothing that gets you better than doing it and playing games,” Cutcliffe said.
Georgia Tech had not played since a 31-13 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame on Oct. 31.
“I felt like I was in the Super Bowl,” said Georgia Tech’s Jordan Domineck, who had a strip sack of Brice and recovery in the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown that gave the Yellow Jackets a 28-23 lead.
“We hadn’t played football in so long … we were hungry.”
Georgia Tech led 28-26 at halftime before Sims threw 24-yard scoring passes to Jalen Camp and Adonicas Sanders in the third quarter. Sims had a 12-yard touchdown pass to Malachi Carter in the first quarter.
Georgia Tech dominated the first quarter but freshman Nate McCollum fumbled while backing up near the Yellow Jackets 5 to field a punt, and Shaka Heyward recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
Heyward came through again for the Blue Devils defense in the second quarter. Heyward tackled Jordan Mason in the end zone for a safety, giving Duke a 23-21 lead.
Brice’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Cooper late in the third quarter cut Georgia Tech’s lead to 35-33.
The Yellow Jackets answered with Sims’ scoring pass to Sanders and Dontae Smith’s 28- and 22-yard touchdown runs.
Brice completed 19 of 40 passes for 273 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Duke: The Blue Devils couldn’t overcome their turnover woes. They turned the ball over on their first three possessions of the second half. An interception by Brice deflated momentum gained by a successful pass by Noah Gray to DeWayne Carter, who usually plays defensive tackle, for a first down on a fake punt. Deon Jackson and Mataeo Durant were effective at times while sharing the bulk of the carries, but Duke had to rely too heavily on Brice and the passing game.
Georgia Tech: There has been progress in the second season with coach Geoff Collins. The Yellow Jackets surpassed their win totals from 2019, when they finished 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the ACC to finish last in the Coastal Division.
SATURDAY NIGHT SUCCESS
Georgia Tech won its eighth consecutive Saturday night game at home. The Yellow Jackets’ last loss on a Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium came on Nov. 28, 2009, when they lost to Georgia 30-24. This was their first home Saturday night game since beating Miami 27-21 on Nov. 10, 2018.
Gibbs was escorted to the locker room late in the first half with a possible left hamstring injury. Gibbs suffered the apparent injury at the end of a 43-yard catch. He grabbed the back of his left leg before walking slowly to the sideline.
Gibbs was on crutches when he returned to the sideline in the third quarter.
In a surprise, Georgia Tech punter Pressley Harvin III was in uniform but was held out with an undisclosed injury. Placekicker Austin Kent handled the punts.
Duke: The Blue Devils are scheduled to close their regular season at home against Florida State next Saturday.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are scheduled to play at North Carolina State next Saturday.