Even when Brad Kaaya was driving the Hurricanes downfield against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets with three and a half minutes left in the game, the feeling in the air was that it was over.
When Kaaya was picked off by Jamal Golden in the end zone, it confirmed what Canes fans already knew; that a week after a clutch defensive outing against undefeated Duke at home, the defense’s woes reared their ugly heads in Atlanta, en route to a 28-17 loss.
Kaaya completed 16 of 25 pass attempts for 245 yards, threw one touchdown to freshman wideout Braxton Berrios in the first quarter and threw two interceptions. Duke Johnson rushed for 100 yards and the Hurricanes only other touchdown, at the very end of the first quarter. Phillip Dorsett led the receiving core with 75 yards on three catches, followed by Duke Johnson with 52 yards on three catches and Clive Walford with 37 yards on two catches.
Miami started the game with the ball and methodically drove downfield 75 yards, capped off by a touchdown pass from Kaaya to a wide-open Berrios for the score and the 7-0 lead. Georgia Tech tied it up on an eight-play, 62-yard drive, which ended on a quarterback sneak by Justin Thomas into the end zone.
With time running out in the quarter, the Canes let the game clock run down to the last possible second at Georgia Tech’s 24-yard-line. Kaaya handed it off to Duke Johnson, who got the blocks he needed on the left side to cruise into the end zone.
The Canes would have a stack of momentum entering the second quarter, but as it turned out it would be the last touchdown of the night for Miami. The Yellow Jackets would tie the game at 14 on their first drive of the second quarter, with Miami’s defense continually getting fooled by Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense.
Thomas, like a symphony conductor at Carnegie Hall, quietly and patiently waited for an opening, and then pitched it to a back for first downs over and over. Georgia Tech even executed a fake punt later in the quarter, although they were stalled later in that drive.
Kaaya’s first pickoff was to Isaiah Johnson in the second quarter, after driving 48 yards down to Tech’s 27-yard-line. Miami’s only real big break of the night was an incomplete pass to D’Mauri Jones in the third quarter, originally ruled a fumble, but overturned on the review, leading to a 27-yard field goal by Michael Badgley.
The defense labored as Georgia Tech continued to run the ball and eat up the clock, ultimately adding up to the Jackets doubling Miami’s time of possession 40:37 to 19:15.
In a season where even one loss means everything in the new world of the college football playoff, Georgia Tech keeps a squeaky clean 5-0 record, which has even more weight considering, this week, four Top 6 teams lost this weekend (Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oregon) for the first time since 1990. Georgia Tech is 5-0 for the first time since 2011.
Miami slides back down to a .500 record at 3-3 with a 1-2 ACC record. The Canes next take on the 2-2 Cincinnati Bearcats at noon Saturday, Oct. 11 at Sun Life Stadium.