The afternoon began with haunting familiarity, continued into indescribable cacophony and terminated in a gruesome fashion that has gained its own recognizable place at Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets’ 42-36 overtime loss to the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium was their fourth in a row to Miami and third overtime defeat in their past five games, dating to the Sun Bowl loss to Utah last season.
Sandwiched in the middle was a stunning comeback, in which the Jackets fell behind 19-0 at the end of the first quarter and then scored the next 36 points, a gutsy charge that ends up lost in the swirl of this stunning defeat.
“We just have to find a way to pull a ‘W’ when it’s clutch time,” A-back Orwin Smith said.
As night fell on Bobby Dodd Stadium, so did Tech’s chances of winning the ACC. The Jackets dropped to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the ACC with both losses coming at the hands of division opponents, both in overtime in games in which the Jackets held the lead with less than a minute to play in regulation. Before the season, coach Paul Johnson noted that the front-loaded schedule would mean Tech would know where it stood in the ACC by the end of September. The unfortunate answer for the Jackets is that they are looking up out of a hole that they have little hope of escaping.
“I don’t know what to say,” Johnson said. “I’m as disappointed as I think I’ve ever been.”
The final éclat Saturday was a 25-yard scoring run by Miami running back Mike James to win the game for the Hurricanes.
“I couldn’t believe it,” cornerback Jemea Thomas said. “Like, is this really happening again?”
Going first, Tech’s possession ended in another note of familiarity. Quarterback Tevin Washington, who had guided Tech’s surging comeback with big plays and five touchdown drives in six possessions, faced a fourth-and-1 at the Miami 2-yard line.
After a timeout to choose the play, Washington checked out of the called play — a quarterback follow — to a toss. After he made the change, Miami switched its alignment, putting two men over the right tackle. Figuring a toss play would not gain the first down, Washington decided to keep and lowered his head. He was met square by linebacker Eddie Johnson, a North Atlanta High grad who stonewalled Washington for no gain.
A Washington interception in overtime of the season opener against Virginia Tech also played a significant role, ending Tech’s possession and enabling Virginia Tech to kick a field goal to win 20-17.
“It’s almost like it wasn’t meant to be,” Johnson said.
The day began in the same fashion that Tech’s past three games had, with Miami jumping out early. The Hurricanes led 19-0 at the end of the first quarter, starting off by scoring on a 65-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Stephen Morris to wide receiver Phillip Dorsett that took advantage of impregnable pass protection and a blown coverage in the secondary.
A safety on a misplayed kickoff return by Orwin Smith was part of the Hurricanes onslaught.
However, Tech rallied with 36 unanswered points, a barrage that included forced turnovers, big plays from the Tech offense and long returns by the special teams.
However, the Tech defense gave way down the stretch, as was the case against Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes scored on three of their final four possessions of overtime and the fourth was a missed field-goal attempt in which they had reached the Tech 4-yard line. Further, they drove long fields to gain the tie and force overtime. The three scoring drives traveled 74, 82 and 91 yards, the last in the final two minutes of the game.
“They just manhandled us,” outside linebacker Brandon Watts said. “They out-executed us.”
Watts had delivered in the first half, forcing a fumble that helped Tech fight out of its hole. Like the whole of the team, he was unable to finish in the end. On Miami’s final drive of regulation, Watts had a bead on Miami running back on a swing pass on a second-and-10 play from the Tech 41-yard line. Watts was close to bringing him down, but cramped up and could only dive at Johnson’s feet. He ended up only with Johnson’s shoe, as he turned the play into a drive-extending 16-yard gain.
“I guess they saw something, and they were taking advantage of some of our schemes,” Watts said.
A day that for a time seemed full of advantages for Tech ended with none.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog