An evaluation of Georgia Tech’s 25-24 loss to No. 11 Miami Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Tech struggled after halftime. The Yellow Jackets gained 172 yards on 29 attempts in the first half, but were held to 54 yards on 24 carries in the second half. Not having B-back KirVonte Benson, who left the game in the third quarter with a right-leg injury, didn’t help, nor did the sloppy footing caused by loose turf and the sheets of rain that fell midway through the second half. Tech relied heavily on toss plays to the perimeter, as the Jackets found tough sledding up the middle.
As expected, the Miami defense was a much tougher challenge for the Jackets than they encountered in their first four games, when they averaged 396 yards on the ground. The Jackets finished with 226 yards.
Once again, the Jackets went heavy with the run game, passing just seven times. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall completed three of seven attempts for 55 yards, including a three-yard touchdown pass to A-back J.J. Green in the second quarter on a play-action pass. Wide receiver Ricky Jeune caught the other two passes for 52 yards, coming up short on a fourth-down play in the second quarter but bringing in the other for a 48-yard gain that was part of a third-quarter field-goal drive, which proved Tech’s final points.
Pass protection was not great, as Marshall had to throw under pressure.
Wide receiver Brad Stewart just missed a third-down target late in the fourth quarter that would have helped secure the game but was unable.
With Miami running back Mark Walton out for the season with an ankle injury, the Hurricanes turned to backup Travis Homer, who was equal to the task. He was hard to tackle, was quick through the line and finished with 170 yards. For the game, Miami ran 36 times for 184 yards, well above the season average of 101.8 yards.
Tech was hurt without linebacker Brant Mitchell, the team’s leading tackler, who left the game with a lower-body injury.
Behind strong offensive line play, Homer was a difference maker.
Miami quarterback Malik Rosier had many moments, completing 23 of 37 attempts for 297 yards and a touchdown. He made the biggest play of the game, a fourth-and-10 completion for 28 yards to Darrell Langham on the game-winning drive.
Cornerback Lance Austin held his own in pass coverage, breaking up consecutive throws into the end zone in the first quarter.
Defensive end Antonio Simmons, who had spoken in the week of his expectation to have success, had two big plays, sacking Rosier on a third-quarter third down after which Tech drove for a field goal. He split a sack with Anree Saint-Amour late in the game on a third down that forced another punt.
While Miami’s 70-yard completion in the third quarter to wide receiver Jeff Thomas was the longest pass play surrendered this season by Tech, safety Corey Griffin made a big play to tackle him at the Tech 3-yard line. The Hurricanes couldn’t punch the ball in and settled for a field goal, meaning Griffin saved four points.
Tech benefited from Miami’s botched onside kick to start the second half, which Lamont Simmons returned 42 yards for a touchdown. The Jackets again struggled covering kicks. Braxton Berrios busted a punt return for 34 yards and Thomas returned a kickoff for 38 yards, a play on which kicker Shawn Davis was injured and forced out of the game trying to make a tackle. Neither return led to points for Miami.
Nathan Cottrell returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 35 yards, which aside from Simmons’ return, was Tech’s longest of the season.
Punter Pressley Harvin was highly effective, averaging 45.3 yards per return on six punts, four inside the Miami 20-yard line.