Though the box score nearly mirrored Georgia Tech’s 2014 win over Miami, the Hurricanes used two defensive touchdowns to sprint ahead in a 35-21 win over the Yellow Jackets on Saturday.
Tech’s offense made huge strides over the disaster against Clemson, but penalties, turnovers, and the inability to finish drives were too much to overcome against an explosive Miami offense.
“It was a tough game ... disappointing,” Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “We gifted them two scores there in the second quarter. I though we had a chance to come back there in the end. We had a couple key drops in the end zone that hurt. There aren’t many teams that can turn the ball over twice for touchdowns and come back and win the game.”
We had a couple gimme touchdowns on playaction if we protected right. We played the game the way we needed to play the game. We had the ball for 40 minutes. But we need to finish the drive and put the ball in the end zone.”
Trailing 14-7 in the second quarter, Justin Thomas dropped back on a second down pass and was hit on his blind side by a Miami defensive lineman. The ball popped out and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman scooped it up to return it 17 yards for a Hurricanes touchdown.
Just two plays later on the next Yellow Jackets drive, Thomas was hit in the backfield and the ball popped out once again. This time, defensive lineman Joe Jackson scooped it up and returned it 18 yards for a second consecutive fumble return touchdown. In the span of 46 seconds, Miami scored two defensive touchdowns to extend its lead to 28-7.
“The first one was supposed to be a pass,” Thomas said. “I got hit from behind, the ball came out. The second one was supposed to be a pitch. The A-back and I were close together. He wasn’t looking, so I pulled the ball in. I was going down at the same time and the ball came out. Those two turnovers hurt us and that was pretty much the turning point in the game.
They didn’t do anything to stop us. We stopped ourselves.”
Much like Clemson’s opening possession a week ago, Miami took its first drive 85 yards effortlessly down the field in just eight plays.
The Georgia Tech offense quickly answered, going 75 yards in 11 plays to tie the game at 7-apiece. The drive was capped off with a 7-yard run by Dedrick Mills.
On the drive previous to Miami’s back-to-back fumble returns, the Hurricanes offense once again marched down the field in a hurry. Mark Walton finished the nine-play, 90 yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown run where he went untouched. Although the Tech defense has looked strong against the run up the middle this season, Miami quickly found success running on the outside.
Georgia Tech put together a crucial touchdown drive to end the first half with a mix of passes and runs. With 47 seconds left, Thomas found Mills on a quick pass to the outside to make it a manageable 28-14 at the half.
Mills got his third touchdown of the game on a perfectly managed drive on Tech’s second possession of the second half after forcing two straight three-and-outs from Miami. The march took 5:20 and Mills’ 1-yard touchdown run gave him his third of the game — the second time he’s scored three touchdowns in a game this season. Mills has eight touchdowns in just four games played on the year.
“The more carries I get, the harder I run,” Mills said. “I feel like the offensive line came out and did a good job blocking and allowed me to run hard.”
Miami answered as quickly as you could imagine. After a run that went nowhere, Brad Kaaya completed three straight passes for 74 yards, finishing the drive with a 31-yard touchdown throw to Stacy Coley to give the Hurricanes a 35-21 lead.
The key drive of the fourth quarter started with 14:10 remaining with the Jackets on the Miami 20-yard line. Marcus Marshall and Thomas began the drive with runs of 28 and 11 yards to get the Jackets near midfield. On a first-and-10 from the ‘Canes 28-yard line, Thomas delivered a well thrown pass right over a Miami defensive back that hit Ricky Jeune in the hands at the end zone. Jeune was unable to pull it in to bring Tech within a touchdown with more than 10 minutes left in the game.
On a fourth-and-three from the 21-yard line following the miss opportunity, Thomas rolled to his right and failed to find Clinton Lynch running a corner route in the end zone -- all but killing Tech’s hope of a comeback.
With 361 yards of offense and 40 minutes of possession, Tech did many of the things it needed to against a tough Miami team. In fact, the game was nearly a replicate of the team stats against Miami in 2014.
|Georgia Tech '16||Miami '16||Georgia Tech '14||Miami '14|
|Yards Per Play||4.9||7.7||5.1||8.0|
The only difference came down to third downs and turnovers.
“There’s some progress,” Johnson said. “We still didn’t block the perimeter very good. When we had the chance at the end, the routes weren’t very good. It was just man-to-man, you’ve got to get open. You can’t just take off and run down the field. You’ve got to run a route sometime.
We made too many mistakes again. We’ve got to do a better job preparing. In the first half, we probably had two gimme touchdowns on play action if we protect the thing right. There’s no excuse.”
The Jackets will head to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers next week in a key conference matchup to get things moving back in the right direction.
“It’s over now ... it’s in the past,” Pat Gamble said. “We’ve got a lot of games to play. You and I both know how the Coastal can work out. We still have goals ahead that we want to achieve and we just have to keep working.”