ATLANTA -- Mario Butler returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown, Tevin Washington threw a 79-yard scoring pass to Stephen Hill and Georgia Tech beat Duke 30-20 on Saturday to ensure eligibility for its 14th straight bowl appearance.
Georgia Tech (6-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed 13-6 after a sloppy, listless first half and was still down when Duke (3-8, 1-6) drove deep into the home team's territory midway through the third quarter. But backup quarterback Brandon Connette, in the game for his running skills, telegraphed his only pass attempt of the day.
Butler stepped in front of the short throw into the flats, cut back the other way around the Duke 40, picked up a late block and tumbled into the end zone.
After the Blue Devils cut it to 23-20, Washington heaved up a pass on third-and-9 from his own 21. The 6-foot-5 Hill reached over shorter cornerback Ross Cockrell to snatch away the ball, then sprinted down the sideline for just the ninth passing TD of the season for the Yellow Jackets.
Duke had a couple of chances to get within a touchdown, but Will Snyderwine missed field-goal attempts from 34 and 54 yards in the fourth quarter. He had made 18 in a row after hitting on his first two tries of the game, including a 52-yarder.
Starting quarterback Sean Renfree completed 30 of 41 for 334 yards and went without an interception for his fourth game in a row. But Connette, who ran for a TD and led the Blue Devils in rushing with 32 yards on four carries, made the crucial mistake when he went to the air.
The Yellow Jackets defeated Duke for the 15th time in the last 16 meetings, including seven in a row.
Anthony Allen led another big day on the ground for Georgia Tech's option offense, rushing for 165 yards on 34 carries to go over 1,000 yards for the season. The team finished with 320 yards on the ground, but it was two non-running plays that made the difference on this day.
With the win, the Yellow Jackets snapped a two-game losing streak and extended their conference record of years finishing at .500 or better in the ACC to 16 in a row. They also avoided the prospect of going into next Saturday's regular-season finale at rival Georgia still looking for that necessary sixth win to earn a bowl trip.
Duke will close its season against North Carolina.
Georgia Tech led 6-3 on a pair of field goals by Scott Blair before the Blue Devils surged ahead, sparked by a fake punt from midfield. On fourth-and-7, punter Alex King took the snap -- and took off, picking up 16 yards before he was shoved out of bounds. Connette finished off the drive with his primary skill, running for a 20-yard touchdown.
After the Yellow Jackets settled for Blair's third field goal on their opening possession of the second half, closing it to 13-9, Renfree led Duke down the field. On third-and-6, he hooked up with Brandon Braxton on a 36-yard completion. Facing the same situation, he converted again with a 7-yard pass to Conner Vernon down to the Georgia Tech 14.
With Connette back in at quarterback, receiver Donovan Varner was thrown for a 6-yard loss attempting a run. Then, hoping to catch the Yellow Jackets off guard, Connette went to the air.
Butler made the interception that put Georgia Tech ahead for good.
Nike Men's Duke Blue Devils Duke Blue Football Icon Legend T-ShirtShop
Less than four months removed from his transfer to Florida State, Everett Golson has been named the Seminoles' starting quarterback.
After hinting at it for more than a week, LSU coach Les Miles confirmed Monday that Brandon Harris will start at quarterback in Saturday's opener against McNeese State.
A final decision in Ohio State's quarterback derby won't be revealed until just before the season kicks off, but Urban Meyer isn't ruling out playing both his decorated candidates.
With less than a week to go before the season opener, No. 9 Georgia finally has a starting quarterback. Coach Mark Richt announced Monday that Greyson Lambert had won the starting job.
Sales of beer with Joe Paterno's name on it are so brisk that the company that makes it is gearing up for a second run after just a week on the shelves.
Baylor coach Art Briles said Monday his fourth-ranked Bears have not been distracted by the swirling controversy surrounding the program's handling of former defensive end Sam Ukwuachu.