Georgia Tech runs past Miami in 28-17 victory


This was Paul Johnson’s dream. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets utterly dominated in the ground game on Saturday, and despite some shaky defense at times, Johnson’s club was able to complete a 28-17 victory over the Miami Hurricanes on the back of more than 40 minutes in time of possession.

The first half was a back-and-forth battle, as both teams struggled mightily on the defensive end of the field. Miami took the ball and marched the length of the field in no time on their opening possession, completing a 75-yard touchdown drive in just six plays and less than three minutes of clock time. Fortunately, the Jackets answered with a dominant offensive drive of their own, running the ball on all eight plays and completing the march with a 1-yard TD run from QB Justin Thomas.

From there, the offenses did slow down a bit, as the visiting Hurricanes were forced into a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but both teams did manage to cross the goal line again before halftime. Miami took a 14-7 lead after a 3-play, 92-yard (!) drive and Canes running back Duke Johnson scored a 24-yard touchdown to give him 70 yards on just six carries. Thomas and company responded immediately, for the second time in the game, with a 69-yard touchdown drive of their own, and prior to the half, Georgia Tech defensive back Isaiah Johnson stalled a likely scoring drive from Miami with a tipped interception.

After the break, the Jackets offense came out of the gate swinging, as they ate up nearly seven minutes of clock time during a 75-yard touchdown drive. The biggest play of the march came when Thomas connected with Tony Zenon for a 9-yard completion on 3rd-and-7, and from that point forward, Georgia Tech needed only seven rushes to cover the remaining 49 yards for a score and a 21-14 advantage.

The follow-up drive was not the picture-perfect ideal for Ted Roof’s defense, but fortunately, the performance was of the “bend but don’t break variety”. Georgia Tech nearly escaped a long Miami drive with the help of a turnover, but after an overturned call, the Jackets held in order to force a 27-yard field goal from the Canes. That somewhat positive result was fortified by yet another quality effort from the Tech offense, as Justin Thomas converted a 3rd-and-15 with a deep pass to Zenon and later capped the 75-yard drive with a 8-yard touchdown from Deon Hill on 4th-and-2 that increased the cushion to 11 points at 28-17.

With all of the momentum on their side, it was time for the Jackets defense to step up, and they did just that. Paul Davis capped what was an enormous defensive stop, as Davis sacked Miami QB Brad Kaaya on third down to force a punt. That gave the home team possession on their own 28-yard line with 9:17 to play, and when Georgia Tech produced back-to-back first downs to chew up nearly six minutes of clock time, it was virtually over. From there, the Hurricanes were limited to simple prayer that went unanswered in the final moments, as the Yellow Jackets preserved a 28-17 victory on the strength of a game-clinching interception by Jamal Golden.

Overall, it was a completely dominant and thoroughly pleasing performance from the Georgia Tech offense. Justin Thomas finished with just 27 yards rushing on 13 carries, but he ran the option to perfection for the great majority of the night, and he made enough plays with his arm to aid in the Jackets converting an astounding 16 of 25 on third down. Zach Laskey led the running backs with 133 yards on 29 carries, and he proved to be the workhorse on a night where Tech seemingly could not be stopped.

There is plenty to discuss with regard to the Georgia Tech defense, which allowed more than 350 yards to Miami in less than 20 minutes on the field, but on this night, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. Paul Johnson’s club exits Bobby Dodd Stadium with a 5-0 mark, and at this stage, the Jackets can reasonably be considered as the favorites in the ACC Coastal.

What a night in Atlanta.