Georgia Tech pulls off a ‘Miracle in Miami’

Yellow Jackets upset No. 17 Hurricanes with last-second touchdown
Georgia Tech coach Brent Key, center, celebrates with players after they beat Miami 23-20 during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Georgia Tech coach Brent Key, center, celebrates with players after they beat Miami 23-20 during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It was, without question, a miracle in Miami.

Georgia Tech, down 20-17 in the fourth quarter with no timeouts, got a fumble recovery from Kyle Kennard on its own 26.

Haynes King threw a 30-yard pass to Malik Rutherford to the Miami 44. After King spiked the ball, the sophomore quarterback rolled right to avoid pressure and launched a pass over the Miami secondary into the arms of a streaking Christian Leary.

Leary caught the ball and went into the end zone untouched for a 44-yard touchdown pass with one second left on the clock, leaving nary a soul who wasn’t shocked at what they had just witnessed.

“We had the four verts, and I looked back and seen (King) roll right. That’s when I flipped my hips and went to the back pylon,” Leary said. “The ball was already in the air and I knew, ‘We gotta catch this one.’ I knew I had to catch this one.”

After a failed two-point conversion, an onside kick that rolled out of bounds and a final play that went for naught despite numerous laterals, Tech had won 23-20.

The Yellow Jackets (3-3, 2-1 ACC) rushed the field in jubilation when the final whistle sounded.

“I usually have a pretty good recollection of the game,” Tech coach Brent Key said. “What did Will Ferrell say in (the movie) ‘Old School?’ I think I just blacked out. That’s what I felt like right then.”

Miami’s penultimate possession ended after a shockingly head-scratching decision by the Hurricanes’ coaching staff and coach Mario Cristobal. On a third-and-10 play from the Tech 30, Miami chose not to take a knee to end the game, but called a running play with 33 seconds on the clock. Donald Chaney gained 4 yards before he fumbled, and Kennard recovered.

Neither team played inspired football all night until that fateful late play. The teams combined for only three points in the first half, and King and Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke combined to throw five interceptions.

King had been held to 77 passing yards on 10 completions before the final drive. Overall, the Jackets were held to 250 yards of offense and committed 10 penalties.

Miami (4-1, 1-1 ACC) racked up 454 yards of offense, but could score only two touchdowns thanks to a better effort than in the previous game from a Tech defense that intercepted three passes, forced a turnover on downs and got a fumble recovery that may change the course of a season.

Now halfway through the regular season, Tech will be off until hosting Boston College (3-3, 1-2 ACC) on Oct. 21.

Credit: Chad Bishop/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tech started the fourth quarter Saturday with its backs against the wall. But on third down at the 25, Jaylon King jumped a Van Dyke pass and raced 66 yards the other way to the Miami 15. That set up a 27-yard field goal from Aidan Birr that made the score 17-10 with 12:11 to go.

Van Dyke recovered quickly to throw a 57-yard pass to Colbie Young, who slipped down at the 3. Henry Parrish ran it from there, making it a 17-17 score with 9:55 left.

Not 90 seconds later, King threw an ill-advised ball deep down the right side of the field that was intercepted easily by James Williams and returned to the Tech 14. Andres Borregales connected on a 39-yard field goal shortly after that to give Miami a 20-17 edge with 6:23 on the clock.

Miami forced a Tech punt after that, then ran the clock out on offense.

The Hurricanes were 7-of-14 on third downs on offense and held the Jackets to 10 first downs on offense.

After a scoreless first quarter, Tech made the night’s first biggest mistake. King scrambled for his life on a third-down play from the Miami 46 and threw an interception to Miami linebacker Francisco Mauigoa, who went out of bounds at his own 35.

But Tech’s defense came to the rescue. Van Dyke threw an ill-advised third-down pass of his own, this one floating into the end zone, where Tech safety LaMiles Brooks was waiting to keep the Hurricanes off the scoreboard.

The Hurricanes got the ball back one last time before halftime and put together a 12-play drive that exhausted the final 1:22 of the half. Borregales’ kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired to put Miami up 3-0 going into the break.

Tech managed only 61 yards of offense, went 2-of-7 on third downs and had only five first downs (two of which came thanks to a Miami penalty).

“I think a critical point was halftime,” Key said. “We came in at halftime, there was none of the, ‘it’s zero-zero!’ It was just a continuation of playing good football and a continuation of creating an identity independent of any clock.”

Miami finally found the end zone at the 6:37 mark of the third quarter. Van Dyke completed a third-down pass in the middle of the field to tight end Riley Williams, who caught the ball at the 15, turned and sprinted into the end zone giving the Hurricanes a 10-0 lead.

The Jackets finally put something together and responded with a touchdown of their own. King’s scramble up the middle for a 6-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal got Tech back within three at 10-7. The score capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive.

One play from scrimmage later, Ahmari Harvey read Van Dyke’s throw to the right side and picked off the pass for his first career interception. The sophomore returned it to the 26 setting up the Jackets in prime scoring position.

Jamal Haynes scored on a 4-yard run on the fourth play after that, giving Tech its first lead at 14-10 with 69 seconds left in the period.

That’s where the score stood going into the final 15 minutes.

Credit: Chad Bishop/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Van Dyke finished with 281 yards passing. Miami receiver Xavier Restrepo caught 11 passes for 139 yards, and Chaney rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries.

“There’s really one thing that matters and that’s playing for 60 minutes. That’s the thing we’ve talked about for several weeks now,” Key said. “We knew what type of team we were capable of being. We’ve shown what our identity could be at times. But we hadn’t put it altogether yet. We had not spent every second on the clock and played the way you’re supposed to play.

“So the challenge this week was create an identity independent of a clock. We talk about no scoreboard and play the next play. But developed a little different way to say it and develop an identity that was completely independent of any clock. I truly believe they did that tonight. We got the outcome we wanted.