By Don Stone - Georgia Tech Express
like a year ago. Actually, it nearly was. Back on Thanksgiving Saturday of
2015 when Mark Richt was fighting for his job. He had lost it with an
embarrassing loss to Florida a month earlier. He just didn't know it yet.
Four straight wins followed including his 13th victory over Georgia Tech. It
didn't matter. The writing was on the wall. The decision had been made to
make a change at UGA. The next day, he was gone.
Now, he brought his new team, the No. 14 Miami Hurricanes (3-0) to Atlanta
to face a Yellow Jacket team (3-1) that was trying to get the bad taste of a
devastating loss to No. 5 Clemson out of their mouths.
Richt has even more familiarity with the Jackets. J.J. Green used
to play for him at UGA before transferring to Tech. And Marcus Marshall
is the brother of Keith former Bulldog Keith Marshall. "I know
the family," Richt said about Marshall.
Richt is 8-0 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. But are these Hurricanes as good as
those Bulldog teams? Its hard to say. They No. 14 national ranking
notwithstanding, Miami hasn't faced anyone yet. They have three wins against
Florida A&M (70-3), Florida Atlantic (38-10) and Appalachian State (45-10).
They'll know a lot more about themselves in a month after a stretch of games
that starts with Tech and continues with No. 12 Florida State, North
Carolina, at Virginia Tech and at Notre Dame.
Georgia Tech has a pair of nice wins against Boston College in Ireland
and Vanderbilt. They have manageable games at Pittsburgh and with Georgia
Southern before a bye week. Now is a good time to right the ship.
But, even without Richt, Miami has beaten the Yellow Jackets six of the
last seven years. And, an advantage for the visitors is that they were
coming off a bye week with an extra seven days to prepare for the option
offense of Paul Johnson.
Georgia Tech got the ball first and got a first down on a six yard catch
by Brad Stewart at the 38. Justin Thomas lost two yards to
bring up a third and ten at the GT49. A Quinton Lynch carry of nine
was nullified by an illegal block below the waist making it third and 25
from the GT34. The Jackets were forced to punt. The Hurricanes began their
first drive at their 15.
On the first play, only two yards, but 320 pound OL Trevor Darling
had to be helped off the field. A short pass to Mark Walton turned into a
first down at the 26. Then Brad Kaaya hit Stacy Coley for a 25
yard gain into Jacket territory. Walton got another first at the 38. Joe
Yearby was open up the middle for 14 and quickly Yearby found the corner
for the rest of the 27 to give Miami the first points of the game 7-0.
Tech started their second drive, again at the 25. Thomas started with a
pass to Lynch for seven. A toss right to Lynch saw the back find open space
for a 23 yard run into Miami turf at their 43. Fr. BB Dedrick Mills
got another first at the 30. Former Bulldog J.J. Green got satisfaction with
a first down carry to the 17. A tough run up the middle by Mills picked up
six to the eight. Johnson called his first tie out. He called a dive by
Mills that got the first as the game moved into the second quarter.
Mills got the rest to tie the game at 7. The nice drive went 11 plays and
75 yards in 6:23. Miami took over at their 25. This time the Tech defense
held them to a three and out with the Jackets taking over after a 44 yard
punt at their 31.
The current Miss Georgia, Patricia Ford, a 2015 Tech grad was
introduced during the break.
Taking his third option, Thomas tossed to Green for a 15 yard gain to
midfield. Green ran past his old coach for another first at the 40. Green,
picked up 20 on a nice catch but had it brought back on a holding call.
First and 20 back at the 50. Thomas took a second tie out. R-Sr. AB Lynn
Griffin got half of it back on a catch at the 37. DB Rayshawn Jenkins
was banged up on the play. Michael Pinkney burst through untouched to
bring Thomas down in the backfield, forcing a punt. Miami fair caught the
punt at their 10.
Yearby, who seems most effective going to the outside, did so for a Cane
first down at the 27. DL Francis Kallon was helped off the field.
Yearly, showing he can actually run it anywhere, took it up the middle for
another first at the 33, then got another first with two similar carries. DT
Patrick Gamble limped off the field. A completion to Chris Herndon IV
had Miami at the GT40 with another first. Another first to a wide open Coley
at the 28. A roughing the passer call on DL Desmond Branch put it at
the 14. Walton scampered into the end zone for a 14-7 lead. The Jacket
defense, after looking good on the previous drive was unable to stop the
Hurricanes on virtually every play of this one.
George Eads and Lucas Till, stars of the Atlanta-based TV
show, "MacGyver" were introduced.
Again, Tech started at their 25 with disastrous results. A blindside sack
of Thomas jolted the ball loose, scooped up by Shaq Quarterman, who
ran free for the 25 yards TD. Suddenly, the Jackets were in a two score
deficit with the game starting to look like the last one with Clemson.
Almost a carbon copy on Tech's next drive as Thomas fumbled again and
again it was scooped up DL Joe Jackson for an 18 yard Miami TD. Tech
was in the midst of another rout, down 28-7. The roar of the hugely Orange
and Green clad 53,547 crowd made it see like a road game. While it is the
first time in Georgia Tech history that an opponent returned two fumbles for
touchdowns against GT, it is only the FIFTH time in program history that an
opponent scored two defensive touchdowns in a game against GT and the first
time since Virginia Tech returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a 51-7
GT loss on Sept. 24, 2005.
Lynch gave the Jackets a bit of hope with a 33 yard run to the MH40.
Johnson had to go for it on a fourth and 2 and converted with a toss to
R.So. AB Qua Searcy to the 27. Lynch brought down a 14 yard catch at
the 13 for another first. Tech took its final time out of the half with 0:53
to go and a second and six at the nine. It paid off as Thomas hit Mills for
a much needed score to cut the lead in half 28-14.
Except for the pair of defensive scores, the game was even as the first
half came to an end. As I thought, stats were close with Miami leading in
total offense 196-162. Tech lead in rushing 133-92 and only trailed in
passing 70-63. The Jackets actually dominated time of possession 22:43 to
7:17. The difference, two turnovers.
Last time, Tech was dominated in the first half 23-0 by the Tigers but
showed some fight to keep it from getting further out of hand by actually
outscoring Clemson 7-3 in the second half. They needed similar reaction this
time to get back in it, just down by 14.
Miami got the ball first at the 25. Like they had once in the first half,
the GT defense held Miami to a three and out getting the ball back at their
30 after a nice 17 yard return by Stewart.
Green got 8 but the next play lost three for a third and five at the 34.
Nothing more and the punt was fair caught at the 22.
A short pass to Coley got 7 but the "D" again held them to a third three
and out. This time, the Jackets had better field position after the fair
catch at the 35.
Mills took it up the middle for 12 to the 47. Mills broke a few tackles
and picked up another first at the MH42. Another tough run by Mills for 15
more to the 27. A toss left to Griffin gained 12 more for a first at the 11.
Tech had scored both times they were in the red zone in the first half. An
off sides call made it second and one at the 7. Mills converted to the two.
Mills got the score to bring the fighting Jackets to within 7, 28-21. SLB
Zach McCloud was injured on the play.
Miami got their first first down of the half then exploded with a pair of
passes to Ahmmon Richards and Coley for a quick score to extend the
lead back to 14, 35-21. The three play quick strike drive went 75 yards in
The short time of the drive could benefit Tech with a tired defense
having to get back on the field with little rest. Tech began at their 25.
This time, Tech went three and out with the Canes taking over at their
Another quick strike with a 22 yard catch by Braxton Berrios to
the GT49. One quarter to go. Tech had dominated with time of possession
again keeping the ball 11:08 to Miami's 3:52. But they had just treaded
water on the score, still down by 14 with each team scoring once.
Tech got a much needed three and out and got the ball desperately needing
points. Marshall got his first carry and made the most of it for 27 yards to
the GT47. Thomas kept it and ran out of bounds for another first at the H42.
A fumble was recovered by Freddie Burden for a four yard loss. Third
and 14. Thomas scrambled free from a rush and found Stewart at the 33
bringing up a 4th and one. Johnson again had to go for it and again
succeeded with a handoff to Mills to the 28. Thomas dove forward for
five to the 23. Marshall took it to the 21. Another fourth down. Another
try. This time a fail as Miami took over on downs.
To say the least, with just 8:57 left in the game, Tech needed a quick
stop to get the ball back. Instead, a short pass to Herndon saw the TE slip
past some tackles and run 44 yards all the way to the GT31. Richt took his
first time out. A pair of fouls on the offense moved the ball back an
amazing 30 yards for a second and 36 on the MH43. Helpful but the clock was
ticking down to six minutes. The Hurricanes got to the GT41 but had to punt
it away to Tech who fair caught deep in their own territory at the 10,
needing a quick 90 yards just to stay within a score.
A false start made it first and 12 fro the 3. Another fourth down and for
the first time, Johnson punted with Miami starting at their GT49 with only
one thing in mind, eat us the rest of the 4:15 on the clock. The crowd began
to clear as the Miami faithful felt compelled to chant "Nah, Nah, Hey, Hey,
Goodbye." Seemed appropriate.
After a short run, Johnson stopped the clock at 4:04. Tech held and got
the ball back at their 37 with another nice return by Stewart for 26 yards.
Thomas scrambled for a first down at the 48 but the clock was ticking to
just over three minutes. Ricky Jeune got his first catch for six.
Another to the 39. Another fourth down with another do or die no choice
attempt needing ten this time. The result, an interception that actually put
the ball at the 20. But, not matter. With 2:21 on the clock, Miami had it
won. They actually won it with that quick 1:33 scoring drive. Without that,
the deficit would have just been seven and within reach. In reality, the
game was won with the catastrophic pair of fumble TD returns that gave the
Canes a two score lead, the margin of difference in the game.
Still again, Johnson, for the seventh time in nine meetings, had to walk
across the field and give Richt a congratulatory hand shake, this time
wearing different colors, same result. In Richt's 200th career game, he
extended his record over Georgia Tech to 14-2, winning all nine games he
coached at Bobby Dodd Stadium. And for the 4-0, 1-0 Hurricanes, it became
the seventh win in the last eight years over the 3-2, 1-2 Yellow Jackets.
Normally a sign of victory, Tech had doubled time of possession 39:54 to
20:06 and actually outgained Miami in total yards of offense 361-355. They
doubled the Hurricanes in rushing yards 267-114. But the two turnovers
killed them marring an otherwise good performance.
Back to the drawing board with another ACC matchup, this time on the road
at Pittsburgh next Saturday at 12:30pm.