Miami Beats Georgia Tech with Stout Defense


You’re not going to get far against Georgia Tech if you don’t play disciplined defense. That triple option can catch you off guard if you’re not where you’re supposed to be. The Canes learned that in 2008 when the Jackets ran it down their throat for 472 rushing yards—the most allowed by a Miami defense since 1944. Miami has struggled to stop the run this season, and it made the matchup with the Jackets’ second-ranked rushing offense a big storyline leading up to Saturday’s game. The defense answered the challenge, as they held Georgia Tech to only 134 yards rushing in the Hurricanes’ 24-7 win at Sun Life Stadium.

The Miami defense held the Yellow Jackets to fewer than 100 yards rushing in 2009 following the debacle the year before, and the Canes defense came up big again in this one to hold Georgia Tech to 214 fewer rushing yards than their season average (349). They kept Georgia Tech out of the end zone until there was just over a minute to go in the first half.

Despite a two-touchdown halftime lead, the Canes offense didn’t get off to the best start.

Miami punted the first time out, but a JoJo Nicolas interception on Georgia Tech’s first play of the afternoon gave the Miami another chance, and they capitalized on a 12-play drive that ended when Mike James found the end zone on a two-yard run. Then the offense stalled in Georgia Tech territory on its next three possessions.

But the offense answered the Jackets’ sole touchdown with a three-play touchdown drive to go up 21-7 at halftime on a 14-yard Lamar Miller draw play—his sixth touchdown of the year. The offense received the ball with just under a minute to go in the half.

Jacory Harris didn’t look on his game at times (8-for-23, 140 yards), but came up with some big plays and his lone interception—his first since the Kansas State game and only his fourth of the year—came on a tipped pass on a well-thrown ball that should have been caught. He even came up with a first down on third-and-10 with an 18-yard run late in the third quarter. That run kept the drive alive and ended with the field goal early in the fourth to go up three scores. It was just one of the many examples of Harris’ improved decision-making.

Tommy Streeter came up big again with three receptions of more than 15 yards—48-, 32-, and 16-yards. Two of those receptions brought the Canes into the red zone and set up scores. Lamar Miller rushed 27 times for 93 yards with a score. Freshman receiver Phillip Dorsett was the second-leading receiver this afternoon, catching two passes for 32 yards. His first reception came on fourth-and-3 and went for 13 yards to get the first; his second reception went for 19 yards to bring Miami into Yellow Jackets territory on their fourth-quarter scoring drive.

The offense came up with some plays, but the defense and special teams were the reason for the victory. A fumble recovery on a punt return was recovered in the end zone by Nicolas to put Miami up 14-0, and the kick and punt coverage was key to preventing the Yellow Jackets from starting with good field position.

The defense played the option well, and there wasn’t a whole lot of ‘freelancing’ in this one as the Canes generally stuck to their assignments. Sean Spence (10 tackles) made life difficult for the Jackets rushing attack from the middle linebacker spot, and freshman Denzel Perryman made some key plays in the backfield (7 tackles, 3 for loss). Anthony Chickillo, another freshman, had a sack. Nichols, of course, came up with the early interception and recovered the fumble in the end zone on special teams.

Overall the Hurricanes played more consistent football than they have all year. They scored only three points in the second half, but the offense put together two long second half drives that melted time off the clock—a key when playing the Yellow Jackets. The defense didn’t let up all game, and the special teams kept making plays.

That consistency is going to lead to wins. Miami has a favorable second-half schedule with the toughest challenge coming in Tallahassee when they face Florida State on November 12. The trip to Tampa to face USF the following week is a big game as well. The Canes will be out for revenge after falling to the Bulls at home a year ago, and USF is going to be amped for that one, too.

Miami is very much alive in the Coastal Division, and now hold the tiebreaker with Georgia Tech. First they need to take care of their own business. The Hurricanes will play Virginia on Thursday night at 8 PM ET on a night the 2001 National Championship football team will be honored. The game will be televised on ESPN.