The Miami defense was more yielding than the Clemson defense had been a week earlier, but the cocky young Hurricanes were far more opportunistic. They used a pair of defensive scores in the second quarter Saturday and went on to beat Georgia Tech 35-21 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Shaq Quarterman and Joe Jackson, two of Miami’s three prized freshmen linebackers, scooped up fumbles and returned them for touchdowns on back-to-back possessions. It was part of a 21-0 blitz that was instrumental to the Hurricanes’ success.
Remove that portion of the game, and things were pretty even. Georgia Tech had 361 yards, and Miami had 241. Georgia Tech ran for 267 yards and, as a result, dominated the time of possession — 39:54 to 20:06.
Miami’s Mark Richt, the former Georgia head coach, returned to Bobby Dodd Stadium and left the victor, as he has every time as a head coach.
Never miss a local story.
Three who mattered
Georgia Tech B-back Dedrick Mills: The freshman carried 19 times for 99 yards and scored two touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass. Mills was one yard shy of being the school’s first 100-yard rusher since the Pittsburgh game a year ago.
Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya: He was unflappable, completing 13-of-19 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown. His 31-yard touchdown pass to Stacy Coley was the back-breaker.
Georgia Tech receiver Brad Stewart: The sophomore caught two passes for 22 yards and returned two punts for 43 yards.
The game was decided within a two-minutes span in the second quarter. That’s when the Miami defense overpowered the Georgia Tech offensive line, forced a pair of turnovers and turned them into immediate touchdowns. The Hurricanes put 21 points on the board in an instant and changed the entire complexion of the game.
Justin Thomas should get hazardous duty pay: The Georgia Tech quarterback was blindsided on a blitz, took a vicious hit and fumbled to give Miami one score. On the next offensive play the line was shoved backwards, and Thomas let the ball go in a mass of confusion, which Miami turned into another touchdown.
The Georgia Tech defense was passable again: Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said the defense, which allowed only 21 points, was better in the second half. The 35 points will make the defense sound more culpable, but 14 of those points were because of the offense. TheYellow Jackets, however, did not force a turnover for the first time this season.
Bad blocking hurts again: Too many times a Georgia Tech blocker missed his man or got overwhelmed. It resulted in the two decisive turnovers and minus-37 yards rushing.
It was a bad time for the defensive tackles: Francis Kallon left the game in the second quarter, and a minute later Pat Gamble was shaken up. Without two of their main men in the middle, the Yellow Jackets’ defense fell prey to the Miami offense and allowed the completion of a touchdown drive.
The special teams were pretty good again: Punter Ryan Rodwell has been a new man since being forced to compete for his job. Rodwell averaged 41.6 yards on five punts and had two downed inside the 20. Place-kicker Harrison Butker kicked off four times, and none were returned. Brad Stewart returned two punts for 43 yards, his best effort of the year.
They said it
Thomas on the two turnovers: “Those two turnovers hurt us. That was pretty much the turning point of the game.”
Georgia Tech A-back Clinton Lynch on what he saw on the perimeter: We were just one block away from another big play. We have to execute those blocks and score faster.”
Johnson on the overall offense: “It’s better. There’s some progress. We still didn’t block the perimeter very good. I think in the first half we were a little tentative and played soft, and you’ve got to challenge the guys.”
Richt on the impact of the turnovers: “Without those, who knows what would be happening right now. You saw what they were doing on offense, how they controlled the ball and took every second off the clock between plays. It’s so true that you’d better maximize your opportunities when you can. It just turned out it was on defense.”
Georgia Tech hits the road next week to play Pittsburgh. Miami will host rival Florida State.