Miami Hurricanes vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Complete Game Preview
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After a 4-0 start and quick climb in the polls, the No. 14 Miami Hurricanes welcome the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to Sun Life Stadium this weekend, where Atlantic Coast Conference play will finally begin for UM.
Miami enters undefeated, with wins over Florida Atlantic, No. 12 Florida, Savannah State and most recently, South Florida.
Georgia Tech is 3-1, having lost to Virginia Tech last Thursday night, but notched wins over Elon, Duke and North Carolina.
The Hurricanes vs. Yellow Jackets matchup has become a different beast over the past five seasons, as Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has installed the triple option offense he previously used at Navy.
Johnson's first two squads in Atlanta were a combined 20-7 with a BCS game appearance, but things have slowed considerably, with the Yellow Jackets going 24-20 since.
Miami was throttled by Georgia Tech in 2008, giving up 472 rushing yards on the way to falling 41-23, but the Hurricanes defense has tightened things up, played assignment football and won four straight over the Yellow Jackets.
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
TV: ESPN U/WatchESPN
Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami) - WYAY 106.7 (Georgia Tech)
Spread: Vegas Insider has Miami as a 5.5-point favorite
Miami vs. Georgia Tech: Time Capsule 2012
It was one of the most exciting games last season—not just in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but nationally. Miami jumped out to a 19-0 first-quarter lead in Atlanta, but Georgia Tech stormed back with 22 in the second and held a three-point halftime lead.
The Yellow Jackets scored two early third-quarter touchdowns, making for 36 unanswered points, but the Hurricanes refused go go away.
Miami held Georgia Tech scoreless the final 25 minutes of regulation, scored the final 17 points, tied the game 36-36 and forced overtime.
Linebacker Eddie Johnson stuffed a Tevin Washington run on 4th-and-1 from UM's 2-yard line, and after the turnover on downs, running back Mike James tore off the 25-yard game-winner on 2nd-and-10.
The clip above is part of 3 Penny Film's "CanesAllAccess" series and one of the better weekly segments created over the past few seasons. Quality in-game footage of the comeback, as well as the postgame celebration.
Last year's nailbiter at Georgia Tech was also the game in which Miami lost freshman wide receiver Malcolm Lewis to a dislocated ankle.
In one of the more touching college football moments in recent memory, Hurricanes head coach Al Golden rushed the field and cradled Lewis while the medical staff jumped into action and tended to the injured player (Lewis/Golden footage starts at around 5:20).
Lewis missed the rest of the season, rehabbed and had limited action this spring, including a ceremonial touchdown reception during a scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium.
The sophomore wide receiver is working his way back into game shape this season, catching one pass for nine yards late in the blowout over Savannah State.
Miami's Keys to Victory
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Keep Georgia Tech's Offense 1-Dimensional
Vad Lee is different than recent Georgia Tech quarterbacks in that he can actually throw the ball. Against Duke and North Carolina, Lee competed a combined 28 passes for 129 yards and threw five touchdowns.
Last week against Virginia Tech, the Hokies brought some pressure and Lee tossed two interceptions in the 17-10 loss.
The quarterback is always going to get some on the ground in the triple option offense, so a defense needs to pick its battles.
As long as Miami can contain the triple option and not let Lee move the chains with the pass or find the end zone through the air, the Hurricanes defense should dictate the course of the game.
Don't Freelance, Stick to Assignment Football
Defend the proper gaps, know which players to hit and don't fall for any trickery.
Easier than it sounds, but if Miami can bring that type of discipline to Saturday's showdown, it should be a fifth straight win over the Yellow Jackets for the Hurricanes.
Score 1st and Score Often
The triple option offense isn't necessarily ideal when playing catch-up, so getting on the board early and putting Georgia Tech in a hole should be Miami's goal.
It's worked over the past four years, though the Hurricanes defense broke down last season, allowing 36 straight points before tightening up, rallying and eventually winning in overtime.
Miami's first-year offensive coordinator, James Coley, needs to have some good stuff drawn up for the first dozen or so plays and the Hurricanes have to execute.
With an improved defense in 2013, an early three-score lead has a good chance of holding up on Saturday—unlike last time these two met.
Georgia Tech's Keys to Victory
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Limit Miami's Big-Play Ability
Whether it's Stephen Morris and one of a handful of receivers hooking up on the deep ball or Duke Johnson tearing off a monster run, Georgia Tech must limit big plays.
Get Miami in 3rd-and-long situations and force the Hurricanes to fight for everything they get.
UM has experienced some huge momentum shifts this season due to monster plays on offense. The Yellow Jackets can't afford to let that happen, as the triple option can't compete with that kind of firepower.
Touchdowns, Not Field Goals
Florida put up over 400 yards against Miami's defense, but couldn't close the deal. The Gators turned the ball over six times (including on a 4th-and-1 stop), with four drives ending in the red zone.
Georgia Tech can't afford to drive the field only to turn it over or settle for three. The hard work needs to pay off and the Yellow Jackets need to match the Hurricanes touchdown for touchdown so things don't get out of control.
No wasted opportunities.
Don't Throw the Game Away
Georgia Tech was upset by Virginia Tech last week in a game that was relatively even regarding offensive yardage and time of possession. Where the Yellow Jackets fell apart was in the turnover battle, going minus-three on the day.
An early Georgia Tech fumble by Vad Lee led to Virginia Tech's first touchdown. On the next possession, Lee threw his first of two interceptions after driving 51 yards on nine plays, leaving points on the field.
Miami's offense has proven it can score at will. Georgia Tech can ill afford to gift-wrap any opportunities.
Players to Watch for Miami
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Miami's quarterback was pulled early against Florida Atlantic, knocked out of the win over Savannah State and removed himself from last week's contest at South Florida after which he told The Palm Beach Post that the Bulls are a dirty team.
This is Morris' fourth showdown against Georgia Tech, having stepped in as a true freshman for the injured Jacory Harris and leading Miami to a 35-10 win in Atlanta.
In limited action, Morris was 11-of-16 for 222 yards and two touchdowns last weekend. If he stays on pace, it could be a long afternoon for Georgia Tech.
When it comes to assignment football and containing the triple option, heady linebacker play is needed and Perryman is the best Miami has to offer. A solid junior campaign is underway, starting with a solid showing against Florida a few weeks back.
Perryman has to make his hits count.
Wrap up Vad Lee, as well as backs David Sims, Robert Godhigh and Zach Laskey. Jar balls loose, look for short passes across the middle, make offensive players pay and get Lee over-thinking his every move.
The defensive end is coming off a strong showing against South Florida, including a big-time takedown of quarterback Steven Bench which forced an end-zone fumble for a score.
Lee is superior to Bench, but Green still must still pressure the quarterback and do his best to force mistakes from an offense that is fueled by precision and discipline.
Players to Watch for Georgia Tech
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
The triple option offense will go as far as Lee can take it. Does he make some plays, as he did in the win over North Carolina, or does he make some early mistakes that cost Georgia Tech, like he did in the recent loss to Virginia Tech?
If Lee can keep the chains moving with some smart decision-making, Georgia Tech can win the ballgame. Know when to run, pitch or pass, and don't turn the ball over.
Lee must be a general on offense.
The veteran running back has 50 carries on the season and leads the Yellow Jackets with 248 total rushing yards. Sims ran hard in the win over North Carolina, carrying 17 times for 99 yards and two scores. He'll need that, and maybe more, to top Miami.
The offensive guard will have his hands full with Miami defenders. The junior is a huge key to a smooth and successful triple option attack.
If Mason is manhandled, the option attack will come unglued.
What They're Saying
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Miami is a 5.5-point favorite, and based on four straight wins over Georgia Tech, many Hurricanes fans believe this game is in the bag. As CaneInsider.com's Brandon Odoi reports, head coach Al Golden begs to differ.
This is our sternest test to date. This is a great challenge for us. I don’t have to remind our defense we gave up on 250 yards to this team. We gave up two big pass plays, 4 of 5 in the redzone. It’s not just the ACC opener, it’s a tremendous challenge for our defense.
Meanwhile, Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson told George Henry of the Associated Press that the Hurricanes present a stiff challenge.
It's been a tough matchup for us. I felt like we should've won the game here last year, but we didn't get it done. They're always pretty talented. They're usually very fast and athletic and they're hard to hit big plays against. We haven't had many big plays the last three games.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
This game was circled on both Miami and Georgia Tech's calendar when the season started, with many unknowns as October loomed.
How would Miami's defense respond after such a poor showing last year? What would Georgia Tech's offense do with a new quarterback under center?
Could the 'Canes upset the Gators early on? How would the Yellow Jackets fare against three out-of-the-gate Coastal Division matchups?
A month in, there are more knowns regarding Georgia Tech than Miami courtesy of ACC play. A win over North Carolina seemed impressive at the time, but lost its luster, as the Tar Heels have stumbled to 1-3.
Meanwhile, a home loss to Virginia Tech and 10-point offensive output don't say much for the ACC Coastal.
Miami got the win over Florida, but gave up 413 yards of total offense. Outside of that showdown, three glorified scrimmages against Florida Atlantic, Savannah State and South Florida, with starters sidelined at the half and second-stringers carrying the load.
This will mark the first time in almost a month that the Hurricanes' best will need to be ready for four quarters.
Miami held Florida to 122 yards on the ground, which bodes well against a rushing team. Furthermore, the Hurricanes defense has been hitting hard, forcing turnovers and was one of the bigger surprises in college football this past September.
The Hurricanes should have enough on both sides of the ball to pull this one out, though it won't be as high-scoring as some of the recent blowouts Miami has experienced.
Prediction: Miami 30, Georgia Tech 20