Hurricanes football experienced its first true challenge Saturday afternoon in a competitive 35-21 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Mark Richt’s 200th career game as a head coach.
Despite losing the battle in both the run game and time of possession, Miami (4-0, 1-0 ACC) stayed the course on both ends of the ball to get the victory. The Canes’ performance was highlighted by 21 points scored in a 1:38 span in the second quarter.
The teams were tied at 7-7, when the Hurricanes took just 3:11 to go on a nine play, 90-yard scoring drive which was capped off by a Mark Walton touchdown run. On the very next offensive possession for the Yellow Jackets (3-2, 0-2 ACC), quarterback Justin Thomas was sacked on a blindside hit by junior defensive lineman Trent Harris, causing Thomas to fumble the ball. Freshman linebacker Shaq Quarterman recovered the football and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
The Canes were not done. After getting the ball back, Georgia Tech felt the pressure from the Miami defense once again. Thomas fumbled the ball on an attempted lateral play, allowing freshman defensive lineman Joe Jackson to scoop it up and run it to the house, bringing the score to 28-7.
Georgia Tech maintained its composure, continuing to play its style of football: running the ball and the clock consistently in its triple-option offense. The Yellow Jackets recovered strong and scored on the next offensive possession on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to running back Dedrick Mills.
The Hurricanes’ defense was not as dominant as in games past this season, allowing the Yellow Jackets to rush for 241 yards. However, it made big stops throughout the game in a match where neither the passing or the rushing offense was all that explosive.
Harris led the way for the Miami defense, racking up seven total tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. The defense as a whole had eight tackles for loss, four sacks and three forced turnovers – two of which turned into defensive touchdowns – on the day.
Junior quarterback Brad Kaaya did not have eye-popping numbers, but he did a masterful job in managing the game on offense and consistently putting pressure on the Georgia Tech defensive backs. Kaaya completed 13 of his 19 passes for 241 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Senior receiver Stacy Coley had a solid outing, catching four balls for 75 yards and the 31-yard touchdown snag that sealed the deal for the Canes at the 3:28 mark in the third quarter.
The Hurricanes will welcome archrival Florida State University into Hard Rock Stadium next Saturday in what will be the team’s biggest test of the season thus far. Kickoff has yet to be decided.