Georgia Tech and Miami play an important Coastal Division game this Saturday with some pretty important implications for both teams.
While the Jackets looked great in a win over Virginia last week, they have fallen under a Miami spell of late. The Hurricanes have won three straight in the series, outscoring them 92-34. The highest point total Georgia Tech has put up in those three games -- 17.
Meanwhile, Miami sits 1-0 in the ACC but the Hurricanes are in major need of defensive improvement and consistency out of quarterback Stephen Morris, who has been up and down this season. Given the way both teams have played in three games, Georgia Tech has the edge on paper going into this one.
Did I mention the Miami spell?
“I think they’ve played well and we haven’t," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said this week when asked why Miami has won three straight. "We haven’t gotten off to good starts and have gotten behind. Down there a year ago, we kind of grinded it out and got back 14-7 on a long drive that took forever to get down there. In the last 50 seconds, they scored again to go up 21-7 at the half after they ran the kickoff back. We tried to play catch up. It’s important that we get off to a good start.”
That is exactly what Georgia Tech did last week in its 56-20 win over Virginia. When the first quarter was over, the Jackets led 21-7. At halftime, their lead grew to 35-7. Tevin Washington had three touchdown runs and a 70-yard touchdown pass to Zach Laskey, who has played well since entering the starting lineup a few weeks ago.
Johnson said David Sims will be back this week so both Sims and Laskey will see time at B-back. Orwin Smith played well last week, too, as Georgia Tech racked up 461 yards rushing. Consider Georgia Tech had 469 yards rushing the week before against FCS Presbyterian, and the Jackets have gained nearly 1,000 yards on the ground in two games.
Stopping the run has been a bugaboo for the Miami defense this year, as the Canes have allowed an average of 205.7 yards on the ground this season. The pass defense has not been much better, though priority No. 1 against Georgia Tech always is to stop the run, and Miami has done an excellent job of that in the past three games against the Jackets. Only once in those three games has Georgia Tech gone over 200 yards rushing -- in 2010. Last season, Georgia Tech had 134 yards on the ground and only 95 back in 2009.
But this Miami defense is young and depleted. Injuries have taken a major toll, and Miami will be without starting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, who was hurt in the Bethune-Cookman game last week. Coach Al Golden knows how big this task is awaiting his team, but believes his players are up for the challenge.
So long as they step up to the challenge.
"What better challenge do you have than stopping the team that's the best at running the ball?" Golden said. "That's the way I approach it, I know that's the way the defensive coaches approach it. With Denzel down, we're going to need some guys to step up. Jimmy Gaines and Gionni Paul are going to have to step up. Some of those guys that have been on the field versus this look in the past -- Tyrone Cornileus, (Kelvin) Cain, Darius Smith, (Anthony) Chickillo, (Brandon) McGee are going to have to step up for us and play really well."