Just as Miami fans began to make reservations for the Dec. 3 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in Jacksonville, Georgia Tech came to the Orange Bowl on Saturday and ruined their postseason plans.
The Yellow Jackets harassed UM quarterback Kyle Wright, compiling a season-high seven sacks in a 14-10 victory over the No. 3 Hurricanes
Miami (8-2, 5-2) drove to the Georgia Tech (7-3, 5-3) 27-yard line with less than two minutes remaining, but Dennis Davis stepped in front of Wright’s pass to tight end Greg Olsen for a game-clinching interception
The Yellow Jacket defense held the Hurricanes to 11 first downs. Miami only converted one of 14 third down opportunities.
“I think we played about as bad as we could have played,” Wright said. “We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities and we had them during the game. You just have to tip your hat to Georgia Tech.”
Both of Georgia Tech’s scoring drives were aided by UM penalties. In the first quarter, a Ken Phillips interception in the end zone was negated by a pass interference flag on Marcus Maxey, leading to Tashard Choice’s two-yard touchdown run. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on linebacker Rocky McIntosh continued a Yellow Jacket third-quarter drive, which ended in a 16-yard touchdown by Reggie Ball on a quarterback draw, putting Georgia Tech up for good.
Ball’s passing numbers were unimpressive, as the junior signal caller went 11-for-30 for 159 yards, but he made big plays when the Yellow Jackets needed to move the chains. Calvin Johnson, the leading receiver in the ACC, finished with six catches for 89 yards.
Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, Darnell Jenkins gave Miami prime field position with an 18-yard punt return to the Georgia Tech 24-yard line. Four plays later, Jon Peattie nailed a 43-yard field goal to pull the Hurricanes within four.
At the end of the first half, Wright led Miami on its best offensive march of the evening, completing back-to-back passes of 15 and 37 yards to Ryan Moore, setting up a 19-yard touchdown strike to Sinorice Moss for a 10-7 UM lead with 57 seconds left in the first half.
After the Yellow Jackets regained the advantage, the Hurricanes drove to the Georgia Tech 12-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Charlie Jones was stuffed for no gain on third-and-one, and Head Coach Larry Coker passed up a potential 29-yard Peattie field goal to go for the lead. Jones lost three yards on fourth down and GT took over.
“In hindsight [letting Peattie kick]probably would have been the better call, but we weren’t moving the ball,” Coker said.
Miami’s final drive started at its own 11-yard line. Wright found Quad Hill for 13 yards on first down, followed by a 25 yard completion for Moore. After an incomplete pass, Wright threw a screen to Moss, who broke free for 24 yards. Despite having almost two minutes left, Wright forced a first-down pass to Olsen, which Davis picked off to officially eliminate the Hurricanes from national championship contention.
Coker said the entire offense played poorly in the loss, which seemed similar to Miami’s 10-7 season-opening defeat at Florida State, where poor blocking limited what the Hurricanes could do.
“We didn’t protect our quarterback very well, so without a question it’s a regression,” Coker said. “We’ve done that the past few weeks and didn’t do that tonight. I think the big key is that we weren’t able to run the ball very well and that certainly ties in with pass protection.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.