As Georgia Tech visited the extremes of its second excruciating loss of the season Saturday, one player told the story of both the highest point and the lowest.
It was junior Lamont Simmons who picked up Miami’s ill-conceived onside kick to start the second half and redeemed it for a 42-yard touchdown run and a 21-13 Tech lead.
And it was Simmons, in his cornerback role, running in stride with Miami receiver Darrell Langham on the fourth-and-10 play with only seconds left to play that the Hurricanes made into a 28-yard completion. Two plays later Miami kicker Michael Badgley made the 24-yard field goal that won the day, 25-24.
Oh, and did we mention that Simmons deflected that pass from Canes quarterback Malik Rosier, the ball bouncing off his wrist, then off Langham’s helmet and finally into the receiver’s hands? In the end, Tech lost on a two-cushion bank shot.
Which do you want first, the peak or the valley?
Let’s just go chronologically.
With Tech leading 14-13 at the half, and setting up to receive the second-half kickoff, Miami performed one of the more awkward onside kicks imaginable. Kicker Badgley bunted the ball to his right, and it sort of just dribbled about unwanted for what seemed to be a very long time. The Canes’ Braxton Berrios positioned himself 10 yards downfield and waited for the ball to come to him to make the play legal. Simmons didn’t have the need to wait.
“Before we came out we had a feeling they were going to try an onside kick,” Simmons said. “The ball didn’t go the all 10 yards, and I saw the outside guy back off. Once I saw the outside guy back off, I just tried to get it and score a touchdown.”
He tried and succeeded, recording his first career score.
That would be the only time a Yellow Jacket visited the end zone in the second half Sunday, and to the bitter end it appeared it might be a decisive play.
Then came the fourth-and-10 pass in the fading seconds, the defining moment of what was an 85-yard driving to a winning field goal.
As easily as Miami moved down the field on a series of bubble screens, it would win or lose on this single downfield heave. Simmons broke with Langham, with safety A.J. Gray coming over to help. The two did everything but knock down the ball.
“We knew the quarterback was going to take that one step and throw it deep. I tried to play my best through his hands, but the receiver had great concentration and off the tip he caught the pass. It was a great catch,” Simmons said.
Could he have covered the play any better?
“He made a great catch,” Simmons repeated.
“I think that was perfect coverage on Lamont’s behalf,” Tech linebacker Victor Alexander said. “It is what it is. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you get big breaks in big-time games. Lamont did the best he could do. That was his job and he did his job to the fullest. (Langham) just got a lucky catch off him.”
With that, the silly onside kick was almost forgotten.
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