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TGW: Miami-crocosm

Nov. 22, 2015

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

Miami can be nice this time of year.

It was really nice last year when Georgia Tech went there for its bowl game.

Saturday at Sun Life Stadium was not one of those days.

For the Yellow Jackets, it one of THOSE days — really another of those days. Their 38-21 loss to Miami was basically a microcosm of the entire season — they started fast, then got hit by injury/injuries — this time one to quarterback Justin Thomas — then a figurative deluge of missed tackles, missed assignments, and turnovers and finally, forge a late comeback that fell short.

Adding insult to injury on Saturday was the literal deluge and a 30-minute delay due to lightning in the area.

“We can’t seem to get out of our own way,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson. “We got a chance to score on the goalline. [We] turned two guys loose, missed assignments and fumbled the ball, so instead of us being up 14-7, they go 99 yards and they’re up 14-7. [We] put together a little drive, got it going a little bit, then [after] a couple first downs we let them just take the ball out of our hands and run for a touchdown, [then] it’s 21-7. It’s kind of the way the season’s gone.”

The Jackets defense forced a three-and-out on Miami’s opening drive then drove 62 yards in six plays, using up 3:15. A-Back Broderick Snoddy took the ball the final five yards, taking the pitch around the left corner, getting a lead block from A-Back Isaiah Willis and cruising into the end zone for his fifth career score and first of the season, making him the 18th different Jacket to find the end zone this season. It was a play that led ESPN play-by-play man Tim Brant to declare, “WAY too easy!”

But that would be about it for the easy portion of the program.

The game then resumed this season’s script, as late in the first quarter, Thomas, the last player the Jackets could afford to lose, and about the last skill player they hadn’t lost, went down with an injury. He would not return and his status for the season finale against Georgia next Saturday at noon at Bobby Dodd Stadium is still to be determined.

Redshirt freshman Matthew Jordan, who hadn’t played since Week Two against Tulane when he ran three times for 72 yards, including a 65-yard TD run and hit his lone pass play for a 35-yard score, took over, completing four of eight passes for 59 yards, with one interception, and was a workhorse carrying the ball, running for 60 yards on 28 attempts, the most by a GT quarterback since Tevin Washington carried 32 times for 120 yards on Oct. 8, 2011, in a 21-16 victory at Maryland in a 21-16 victory. Jordan also was charged with six of the nine fumbles for Tech on the day (Jamal Golden had two and Patrick Skov one).

“He did some good things but, you have to value the ball,” said Johnson. “He made some critical mistakes. We got forced and he pitched it on the ground a couple times when he shouldn’t have. There was a couple times he should have pitched it [and] he didn’t. But, I think he competed.”

While Jordan got all but one of the fumbles back, the one he did not recover proved crucial.

Early in the second quarter with the game 7-7 and Tech looking at second and three at the four, he took the snap, ran left, but found the hole rudely closed by linebacker Juwon Young. Jordan lost the ball and Miami DB Jamal Carter recovered. It was the Jackets’ first red zone turnover since last year’s regular season finale at Georgia.

Miami cashed in as QB Brad Kaaya hit on pass plays of 42 and 46 yards setting up running Mark Walton’s four-yard TD run to put Miami ahead for good, 14-7. The drive covered 97 yards, required six plays and used up a mere 3:22. It also unleashed an avalanche that buried the Jackets.

Tech’s ensuing drive, saw another of those plays that’s personified its luck this season. With second and five at their 40, B-Back Patrick Skov ran up the middle. While his progress was stopped, a gang of ‘Canes’ defenders kept ripping at the ball. It would come loose and D-lineman Ufomba Kamalu was soon taking it the other way.

Tech wide receiver Ricky Jeune, refusing to give up on the play, caught the lumbering 6-6, 297-pound Kamalu at the goal line and knocked the ball out.

It was similar to the hustle play cornerback D.J. White made last Oct. 25 at Pittsburgh, when he ran down running back James Conner from behind, stripped him of the ball and Tech recovered the ball in the end zone for a momentum-swinging play.

But this being 2015, the ball rolled into the end zone and was covered by Miami linebacker Jermaine Grace.

The final insult of the first half followed a 19-yard punt by Tech’s Ryan Rodwell that gave the ‘Canes the ball at the Tech 44 with 18 seconds remaining. Miami would get a career-long 57-yard field goal by kicker Michael Badgely on the final play of the half to extend the lead to 24-7.

The kick was the second of at least 55 yards against the Jackets this year (Pittsburgh’s Chris Blewitt hit a game-winning 56-yarder as time expired Oct. 17) — the first time that’s happened since 1980, and the kick tied for the second-longest opposing field goal ever against the Jackets (behind only Tennessee’s Fred Reveiz, who hit a 60-yarder on Oct. 23, 1982).

The second half saw more of the same issues. A wide receiver pass slipped out of the hands of freshman Brad Stewart and was easy pickin’s for Miami’s defense, which had let Jeune get 15 yards behind them.

Even the weather ganged up on the Jackets in the second half, as lightning forced a 30-minute delay.

Once the weather cleared, the Jackets showed their resolve, twice punching the ball in, with Jordan and Clinton Lynch each recording three-yard TD runs. But the scores sandwiched a lightning-quick Miami scoring drive.

One bright note, the two late scores did allow kicker Harrison Butker to convert his third PAT of the game, giving him 161 for his career, moving him past Luke Manget as the school’s all-time leader.

For the Jackets, the loss gave them a final conference record of 1-7, with the lone win the upset of Florida State.

“I’ve never had anything like this,” Johnson said. “I don’t have any answers for you. I know people are frustrated. I’m frustrated.”

Johnson, as he’s been all season, then summoned up his pride as a competitor and, as he’s asked of his team, began the process of flushing the loss and pointing toward next Saturday against Georgia.

“It’s disappointing. [We’ve] got one left,” he said. “Try to go back, correct the mistakes. It’s like a broken record—same old, same old.”

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