By Michael Cunningham
The Miami Hurricanes topped Georgia Tech at the end in large part because the Yellow Jackets were so bad at the start.
The Jackets trailed 19-0 after a quarter, their largest first-quarter deficit in more than 30 years. They suffered from unforced penalties, mental gaffes, blown coverages and a general malaise.
The Jackets rallied with 36 consecutive points, only to give the lead back in regulation and lose 42-36 in overtime. Tech couldn’t finish after it struggled to get started.
The problems began on the third play of the game. Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris, unhurried by Tech’s anemic pass rush, found Philip Dorsett running free in the secondary for a 65-yard touchdown pass.
The Jackets looked ready to make amends when they quickly moved to midfield. But the Hurricanes stuffed Orwin Smith for a 7-yard loss on fourth-and-3.
The Jackets stopped Mike James for a 1-yard gain on second-and-3, but were too slow to substitute players against Miami’s no-huddle. The illegal-substitution penalty gave the Hurricanes a first down, and on the next play, Morris passed to Dorsett for 40 yards to set up Miami’s field goal.
Another Tech mental mistake gave the ball back to Miami.
Smith fielded the ensuing kickoff in the end zone and started to bring the ball out. He changed his mind but stumbled forward and touched his hand to the ground outside the end zone for a safety that extended Miami’s lead to 12-0.
Another illegal-substitution penalty on Tech gave the Hurricanes an extra down on second-and-goal. James scored on the next play to give Miami a 19-0 lead to end the opening quarter.
That was Tech’s largest deficit to end the first quarter since it trailed Purdue 21-0 in the 1978 Peach Bowl. The start of the second quarter didn’t go much better for Tech.
Smith was indecisive while running back the kickoff and was caught flat-footed. Miami’s Eduardo Clemens made a slicing tackle at the Tech 9-yard line.
Three plays later Smith broke free for a big run,but Miami’s Brandon McGee dragged him down 7 yards short of the end zone. It didn’t matter, though, because a holding penalty against Tech nullified the play.
After all of those miscues, the Jackets finally got on track. Less than 10 minutes later after the big deficit, they had their first lead against Miami since the first quarter of the 2009 meeting.