The good, bad for Tech defense against Miami

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya is pressured by Georgia Tech defensive end KeShun Freeman in the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 1, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Not unlike the Clemson game a week ago, the Georgia Tech defense was knocked around early before recovering later in the Yellow Jackets’ 35-21 loss to No. 14 Miami. The overall results against a high-powered offense weren’t bad, but on this Saturday, not enough to win.

“We’ve just got to start faster, but overall, I think we did alright,” defensive tackle Patrick Gamble said. “I’m not too happy with the outcome, so we’ve just got to keep getting better.”

The good: While the Jackets never sacked quarterback Brad Kaaya, they did a better job than previous of pressuring the quarterback and forcing hurries. In particular, defensive end Antonio Simmons came off the edge to hurry Kaaya or knock him down.

The Jackets held Miami to 1-for-7 on third downs, far better than their season average of 48 percent and their best rate (14 percent) for a game against an FBS team since holding Boston College to 1 for 9 (11 percent) in 2012.

Particularly due to the defensive line plugging gaps, Miami running back Mark Walton gained only 44 yards on 15 carries, well below his season average of 134 yards per game.

Tech collected four three-and-outs from Miami, which came into the game averaging 8.3 yards per play (albeit against lesser competition), second in the country.

The bad: Miami was so effective on first and second downs, the Hurricanes didn't often get to third down. On the Hurricanes' three offensive scoring drives, Miami ran 21 plays to cover a combined 250 yards and never got to third down.

Needing to steal a possession and gain advantageous field position for the offense, Tech’s defense failed to create a turnover. In 311 defensive snaps this season, the Jackets have forced one fumble.

While Tech contained Walton, backup Joe Yearby punished the Jackets for 65 yards on just nine carries.

When Kaaya had time to throw, he was the accurate downfield passer that Tech coaches saw on game video, taking advantage of soft coverages for long completions. Out of 13 completions, Kaaya had five that went for 20 yards or more. Miami’s third-quarter touchdown drive – a critical response after Tech drew to within 28-21 – was accelerated by back-to-back 31-yard pass plays to open downfield receivers.

“I think in the first half, we were a little tentative and played soft,” coach Paul Johnson said. You’ve got to challenge guys.”

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