Hurricanes Thwart Jackets in Gator Bowl, 28-13

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by DOUG FERGUSON
AP Sports Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) (Jan. 1) — Miami stopped Georgia Tech where it mattered the most.

The 23rd-ranked Hurricanes, playing on New Year’s Day for the first time in five years, held Georgia Tech to its fewest points in 17 games and ended Joe Hamilton’s career on a sour note with a 28-13 victory in the Gator Bowl.

Clinton Portis scored on a 73-yard run as he and James Jackson each rushed for over 100 yards, and the Hurricanes (9-4) also got a touchdown pass from each of its quarterbacks, Kenny Kelly and Ken Dorsey.

Highlight: Georgia Tech’s Joe Hamilton scores on a 17-yard run in the second quarter. [.MOV 374k]

But the game belonged to Miami’s defense, which extended its streak to 27 quarters without giving up a touchdown pass.

No. 17 Georgia Tech (8-4), which led the NCAA in total offense and was second in scoring at 40.7 points a game, scored its fewest points since a 34-7 loss last year to Florida State. And Hamilton, who set 18 school records, failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 14 games.

The Yellow Jackets managed 421 yards — still its lowest output of the year — but failed miserably when they got into scoring position. They had seven drives inside the Miami 30, but Hamilton threw two interceptions and Luke Manget missed two field goals.

The result was Georgia Tech’s first loss in a bowl since the 1978 Peach Bowl, a span of seven games.

The Gator Bowl could turn out to be a big step toward Miami returning to its days of glory, when it won four national championships in nine years. Just like then, it all starts with defense.

Linebacker Nate Webster, who had 14 tackles, was the first defensive player selected MVP in the Gator Bowl since 1989.

Leading 21-7 at halftime, the Hurricanes three times came up with a big play to stall Georgia Tech drives and make the Yellow Jackets settle for two field goals.

Miami finally got some breathing room when Reggie Wayne made a leaping catch across his body of a 17-yard touchdown pass from Dorsey for a 28-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Portis, the first freshman to start at tailback for Miami since 1975, finished with 117 yards on 12 carries. Jackson had 107 yards on 21 carries.

Hamilton, who led the Yellow Jackets to seven comeback victories in his career, was 20-of-40 for 245 yards and two interceptions. He also carried 22 times for 49 yards.

The game was played before 43,416, the smallest Gator Bowl crowd since 1958. They all came to see a shootout that never materialized, although that sure looked to be the case when the game started.

Miami met little resistance on a 66-yard opening drive that ended with Jackson going virtually untouched off left tackle for an 8-yard score.

Georgia Tech roared back, moving toward scoring position in just four plays until Matt Sweeney of Miami stepped. On second-and- 6 from the 31, he rushed hard at Hamilton, swatted down his pass and picked it out of the air.

The Hurricanes had a chance to really make a rout in the first half, but they got nothing out of three drives inside the 25. Dan Crosland missed two field goals, and Jeff Popovich was stopped short of a first down on a fake field goal.

Kelly threaded a sideline pass into Moss for 30 yards, and hit Andre King for a 15-yard score on the first play of the second half.

Tech’s only touchdown came when Hamilton finally discovered Dez White, with whom he shared Gator Bowl MVP honors last year. They connected three times on a 77-yard drive, and Hamilton scored on a 17-yard scramble.

Two plays later, Portis bounced off two tackles and raced down the left sideline for a 73-yard touchdown run, the longest for Miami in a bowl game. After that, Tech never came closer than eight points.

So effective was Miami’s defense that Dan Dyke, who punted only 30 times all year, had a season-high six punts. One of them was blocked.

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