They wanted to see a whiteout. Instead, they witnessed a blackout of epic proportions.
With nearly 50,000 white-clad fans screaming behind them, the Yellow Jackets’ whiteout of Bobby Dodd Stadium worked according to plan, as they found a way to deliver a bone-crushing knockout blow to No. 23 Miami on Thursday night, upsetting the Hurricanes 41-23 and blacking out their ACC title hopes.
The win also keeps Georgia Tech’s own conference championship dreams alive, as it takes sole possession of first place in the ACC’s Coastal Division entering this weekend’s college football action. Losses from three teams Saturday would ensure the Yellow Jackets a return trip to the conference title game for the first time since 2006.
“We’ve earned it,” sophomore B-back Jonathan Dwyer said of a potential division championship. “I think we’ve proven that we are. We came out for this game ready to play. I mean, you could see it in everybody’s eyes on the bus ride to the stadium. Winning this game meant a lot; to us, to the program. We want to make history.”
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Dwyer and the Yellow Jackets did make some sort of history Thursday night, he and his fellow ballcarriers combined for 472 yards of rushing offense against Miami, marking just the second time the Hurricanes had ever allowed such a ground performance. The total was also the highest run tally for the Yellow Jackets this season. Against Mississippi State in September, Georgia Tech had 438 rushing yards.
“It just kind of happens sometimes,” head coach Paul Johnson said of the team’s rushing performance, smiling in his post-game news conference. “I thought Josh (Nesbitt) did a good job of running the offense and we saw it (Thursday) like we ought to see it every week. We executed a lot better. When you do that, you have a chance to make some big plays.”
Dwyer made several big plays, sprinting and stiff-arming his way to two second-quarter touchdown runs that gave the Yellow Jackets an extended 17-3 lead entering halftime.
“It was important to get that second touchdown because we’ve seen what type of team Miami is and how good of a come-from-behind team they are,” Dwyer said.
While Dwyer and the rushing offense seemed to fuel the win, it was the Yellow Jackets' defense which sparked the victory, starting the scoring early.
With Georgia Tech leading 3-0 early in the second quarter, Yellow Jackets defensive end Michael Johnson snared a short pass from Miami quarterback Robert Marve and took an interception 26 yards to seal Georgia Tech’s first touchdown of the game.
“The defense played very well, especially early on,” Johnson said. “Michael Johnson’s interception return was a huge play and especially in the first half, since we didn’t give up any big plays. And when you don’t give up big plays, it enables you to play defense.”
With the win, the Yellow Jackets are hoping poor play from three other ACC teams this weekend will enable them ride their whiteout success to Tampa and the conference championship.
North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech each hold three conference losses — as well as wins over the Yellow Jackets — and are the pieces blocking Georgia Tech’s path to the conference championship. Losses from all three teams, and the Yellow Jackets could end up in the ACC title game.
“I saw a team right there in our team that at least wants (to be in the title game),” senior defensive end Darryl Richard said. “And who knows, with the way the teams in this conference like to play hot-potato with the trophy, don’t be surprised if on Saturday, we get to sit back and watch them do it.”