Tech (3-6, 2-5 ACC) came to south Florida intending to make a stand, to play with the focus and attention to detail it had lacked in previous games. Team members spoke during the week of wanting to show respect to the team’s seniors and trying to send them off with a bowl game.
However, familiar shortcomings – poor tackling, misplays in the secondary and an inability to get the offense in a rhythm, among them – spelled defeat for the Jackets. With the regular season now down to three games, Tech has to win out – against Boston College, No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 1 Georgia – to make a bowl game. For a team that has yet to win back-to-back games against anyone in Collins’ three seasons – let alone two teams in the top 10, one of them the clear favorite for the national championship – the phrase “tall order” may not quite do justice to that errand’s level of difficulty.
Miami (5-4, 3-2) seared the Jackets for 563 yards of offense and 7.4 yards per play in winning its third game in a row. They were both season highs against an FBS opponent for the Hurricanes as they took their turn spinning around the Jackets defense. Tech’s two previous opponents, Virginia and Virginia Tech, also rang up season highs for total offense at the Jackets’ expense.
“I felt like we played good,” said defensive back Jaylon King, whose 40-yard return of a fumble created by Thomas gave the Jackets a second-quarter lead at 21-17. “We had some tighter coverages. We created turnovers this week. And then also, I felt like we need to do a better job at communicating at points and just getting the ball carrier down. I felt like we had too many coverage blows and too many missed tackles.”
Squandered in the effort were a 71-yard touchdown run by running back Jordan Mason, a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown reception by Gibbs (making it five consecutive games that he has broke a scrimmage play for at least 50 yards) and Thomas’ defensive two-point conversion when he intercepted Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke when the Hurricanes went for two with a 33-28 lead and returned it the length of the field, collapsing in the end zone. The Jackets’ three turnovers followed four games in which they’d created only one.
But the Jackets had trouble moving the ball consistently, collecting five three-and-outs in 14 possessions. Their 329 yards of offense marked their second lowest total of the season. Losing center Mikey Minihan in the third quarter was damaging, and quarterback Jeff Sims was often off-target, completing 21 of 38 passes for 194 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked three times.
“It was just a little mishaps on the throws, but Jeff’s going to get it right,” Gibbs said. “He’ll bounce back next game. I believe in him.”