Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall’s body language and the tone of his voice, to say nothing of his words, related plenty about his disappointment in losing to Miami Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.
“It’s going to be really tough to let go of,” Marshall said following the 25-24 defeat. “I’m not going to lie to you.”
He and his teammates won’t have a choice. Tech plays Wake Forest at home on Saturday.
With their bye week to rest and practice, the Yellow Jackets invested two weeks into beating the Hurricanes. Wide receiver Ricky Jeune called it “our real true test to see what Georgia Tech football’s about.” Saturday, the Jackets gave full effort to the task and then led Miami from the 4:27 mark of the first quarter until the Hurricanes kicked the game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining.
Rather than returning home with a hard-fought road win over the No. 11 team in the country, a huge obstacle out of the way on the path to an ACC Coastal Division title and a spot in the Top 25, the Yellow Jackets instead had a third consecutive loss to Miami and a second last-second loss this season by one point.
“We came down here to win,” linebacker Victor Alexander said. “We’ve been having animosity against Miami for the longest, when they came to our house and the year before that we came here. Really, (it’s) the biggest game we’ve been focusing on. We came here the year before, and we just had in our mind, we’ve got to beat these dudes. This is the year we’re going to beat these dudes and we’re going to shut their mouth.”
Safety Corey Griffin felt similar pain.
“I haven’t beaten Miami since I’ve been here,” Griffin said. “Going into this game, coming off two weeks, we felt confident in our game plan, went out there, they made one more play than we did and they executed. It hurts a lot.”
A particular challenge this week will be responding, for the second time this season, to such an emotionally heavy defeat. Last time, Tech had the additional challenge of playing on short rest, but also was playing an FCS opponent, Jacksonville State.
Summoning the desire and will to give all of themselves to practice, meetings and video study would seem more difficult after such a gut punch of a loss and when the stakes are less clearly defined.
Wake Forest doesn’t ypically command the attention that Miami does, but the Demon Deacons are capable of beating Tech. They’re 4-2, with their losses to Florida State and Clemson. They’re No. 33 in ESPN’s Football Power Index and No. 32 in the Sagarin ratings. (Tech is No. 24 and No. 21.)
Wake Forest is not dynamic offensively, but plays solid defense and takes care of the ball. Plus, the Demon Deacons were off this past week.
“You can get your tail beat any week if you don’t play (your best),” coach Paul Johnson said last week of the ACC. “There is no easy game.”
The game also took a physical toll on the Jackets. B-back KirVonte Benson, linebacker Brant Mitchell and kicker Shawn Davis all left the game with injuries. Other players undoubtedly felt the impact of playing the hard-hitting Hurricanes.
Whether it’s related or merely coincidence, Tech has not responded well after playing Miami in recent seasons. The Jackets have lost their next game after Miami in each of the past five seasons – Middle Tennessee State in 2012, BYU in 2013, Duke in 2014, Georgia in 2015 and Pittsburgh last season. Tech was favored in just two of the games.
“Our schedule doesn’t get any easier from here, starting with Wake Forest next week,” Griffin said. “Come Monday, we’ll work on the small things. We’ve got a couple injuries. I think we’re going to be OK.”
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