Georgia Tech wears down Miami, stays unbeaten
ATLANTA (AP) — It took six years, but Georgia Tech finally beat Miami.
“They’ve had our number for a long time,” fifth-year senior linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said, “so it’s definitely good to go out there and get even.”
Deon Hill ran 8 yards for a decisive touchdown on fourth down, Zach Laskey rushed a career-high 29 times for 133 yards and Georgia Tech stayed unbeaten with a 28-17 victory over Miami on Saturday night.
Two years after giving up 23 unanswered points and losing in overtime to the Hurricanes, Georgia Tech players celebrated in the students’ end zone with the marching band and a couple thousand fans who rushed the Bobby Dodd Stadium field.
“That’s probably one of the best crowds I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas said. “They helped us with the victory, too. I like them to know they did.”
Thomas was held in check statistically but was instrumental in running the spread option offense effectively, helping the Yellow Jackets (5-0, 2-0 Atlantic Conference) earn a nearly 21-minute advantage in time of possession.
Duke Johnson had 100 yards rushing on 14 carries for the Hurricanes (3-3, 1-2 ACC), but freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya couldn’t overcome an interception that safety Isaiah Johnson jumped to pick off at the Georgia Tech 10-yard line late in the second quarter.
Thomas, who surprisingly led the nation coming into the game by averaging over 19 yards per completion in coach Paul Johnson’s run-first attack, was just 3-of-6 passing for 23 yards entering the fourth.
But following the long timeout before the final quarter, Johnson called for Thomas to hit Tony Zenon on a deep crossing route to convert a long third down. The pass covered 30 yards and set up Hill’s TD run on fourth-and-two from the 8.
Paul Johnson never hesitated to call the run instead of try for a field goal. Thomas made the right read before the snap, faked a handoff to Laskey and pitched to his right to Hill.
“I told our team, ‘We’re going to run the triple. That’s what we do. We do it every day. It’s two yards. Let’s go get it,’ ” Paul Johnson said. “We did. Justin made a nice read, got it kicked on the edge and they didn’t have anybody out there.”
Kaaya was sacked by linebacker Paul Davis on Miami’s next possession, forcing the Hurricanes to punt and give the ball back to clock-consuming Jackets.
“We knew we had to take advantage of every drive,” Kaaya said, “because their offense is going to hold the ball for a while.”
Johnson averaged 8.2 yards on 10 carries in the first half, but Georgia Tech’s offense did its best to keep the ball out of his hands.
The Jackets had 10-minute advantage in time of possession before eating up nearly the first 7 minutes of the third quarter with a 13-play, 75-yard possession that put Georgia Tech up 21-14 on B.J. Bostic’s 2-yard TD run.
“Laskey was gaining too many yards inside, falling forward too many times,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “Give credit to them. There were a couple of nuances in there. They executed better than we did.”
Miami caught a break on second down when receiver D’Mauri Jones appeared to lose a fumble at the Jackets’ 5, but the call was not overturned, and the Hurricanes cut the lead to four on Michael Badgley’s 27-yard field goal.
Miami took a 7-0 lead on the game’s opening drive when Braxton Berrios ran a 21-yard corner route past Demond Smith for an uncontested catch in the right side of the end zone.
After Georgia Tech forced a 7-all tie on Thomas’ 1-yard run, the Hurricanes went up 14-7 on their third drive when Johnson ran through the left side of the field for a 24-yard touchdown.
The Jackets made it 14-all on the first possession of the second quarter on Zenon’s 6-yard run.
Notes: Punter Ryan Rodwell ran up the middle for a 10-yard gain on a fake punt in the second quarter. Marques Gayot picked up Rodwell and body slammed him on the punter’s back, but Rodwell got up smiling and ran to the sideline. ... 2014 marks the first time in his seven years that Paul Johnson has beaten both Virginia Tech and Miami in the same season. ... Georgia Tech announced a crowd of 52,221. ... Jackets starting left guard Bryan Chamberlain was injured early in the fourth quarter but walked off the field under his own power. ... Georgia Tech hosts Duke next week. ... The Hurricanes host Cincinnati.