What happened on Miami’s first fumble return against Georgia Tech?

Georgia Tech co-offensive line coach Ron West said on Monday that the coaching staff didn’t communicate to the line the protection change needed that may have prevented Miami’s first fumble return for a touchdown in last week’s 35-21 loss.

On the play, Miami showed a 3-4 formation, with three defensive linemen and four linebackers. Just before the snap, the right outside linebacker, Trent Harris, walked up between Tech’s left offensive tackle and the A-back. One inside linebacker was also close to the line of scrimmage between Tech’s center and right guard. The other inside linebacker was close to the line of scrimmage between Tech’s center and the left guard.

At the snap, the inside and out linebackers on Tech’s left blitzed. The center and the left guard picked up the inside linebacker. The left tackle also blocked down on the defensive end. That left no one except the A-back to block the outside linebacker, and the A-back ran a route.

That gave Harris a clear path to Justin Thomas, who never saw him coming. Harris hit Thomas and forced a fumble that Shaquille Quarterman picked up and returned 17 yards for a touchdown to give Miami a 21-7 lead.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said after the game that the players aren’t coached to leave a player who has walked up to the line unblocked.

“The line has to be able to slide the protection and we would have to change the protection from a base 5-man protection to slide it to the most dangerous players,” West said. “That’s on us as coaches. We didn’t get it communicated. They didn’t have it.”

Had the players had the information, West said it’s simple to execute the proper blocking. He said if a defensive players walks up, the guard, center and tackle have to slide to that side.

That may have left a player unblocked on the other side, but on the play it would have been a player Thomas would see.

“It happened quick,” West said. “They weren’t prepared for it. That’s on us. We have to get them prepared for it and that mistake can’t happen again.”

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