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Out of Sync

Oct. 22, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

There was a time Saturday, after an agonizing quarter-plus, when this thought popped up as Georgia Tech kept converting and converting third downs: if this drive goes all the way, it could be looked back upon as the Yellow Jackets’ most important possession of the season.

Alas, that thing-of-beauty drive was just about all that the offense mustered in Miami.

Tech did go all the way, and as almost each part of a 20-play, 92-yard, 9 minute, 15-second possession unfolded, there was growing suspicion that the Jackets were finally un-tying themselves, that they were hitting their stride, that order would continue restoring itself and Tech would win. The Jackets even unfurled a couple screen passes on that drive, and tackle Tyler Kidney made two great blocks in space to spring them for first downs.

Tevin Washington’s 1-yard scoring run pulled Tech within 14-7 with just 1:02 left in the first half, and given that Miami’s heretofore dangerous offense had been held to a single score, there was promise.

The notion of that drive coming to be viewed as seminal was based upon a few assumptions. Here, we’ll play broadcaster and check them on or off in order as if using a teleprompter:

# With a single, skinny minute left in the half, the Jackets would hold the `Canes yet again, take the kickoff in the second half. Miami took a 21-7 lead three plays later without even taking a timeout. The timing was terrible for the defense to look confused. NO CHECK. Really, though, Tech’s special teams launched the `Canes. Travis Benjamin’s 48-yard kickoff return gave Miami the ball at Tech’s 46-yard-line.

# [Part II of the assumptions] Trailing by just a touchdown, that one scored by Miami when freshman Zach Laskey tried to field a bouncing punt at Tech’s 5-yard-line only to muff it and have the `Canes recover for a score in the second quarter, the Jackets would take the second-half kickoff and pick up where they left off in the first half. NO CHECK-minus. Tech tried at first. The Jackets moved 48 yards on 13 plays over 6:12 on that first possession of the third quarter, but Washington’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete after Tech reached Miami’s 32. The Jackets had two first downs over their final four possessions, and never came close to crossing midfield. The best they did was reach their own 33.

# After tying the game or pulling within 14-10, the Jackets would watch their defense continue to slow the `Canes, if not completely throttle the offense that gored the Tar Heels a week earlier at North Carolina, and gashed the Hokies before narrowly losing at Virginia Tech. CHECK-plus. Miami scored three more points for a total of 17 allowed by Tech’s defense on the day.

I’m struggling to come up with a novel prism through which to assess this game. I can’t.

The defense that so many fans love to pick on allowed modest totals of 265 total yards, and 14 first downs. Jacory Harris completed just 8 of 23 passes for Miami, and linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu intercepted one of his throws.

The offense has lost its way, scoring 21 points in the past two games (Tech had a defensive touchdown in the 24-21 loss at Virginia a week earlier).

Miami entered the game ranked last in the conference in total defense in ACC games, and No. 10 in scoring defense. Tech mustered 201 total yards even has the `Canes were without a top defensive lineman (suspension) and injuries took down a couple more players.

Beyond the obvious observation that the passing game has been off-track for weeks (Tech’s first play was a Washington misfire that was intercepted to set up Miami’s first TD, also a modest 46-yard drive like the one after the long kickoff return), the run game is out of sync, and special teams are highly problematic.

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