With contributions from across the roster, Georgia Tech seized victory Saturday over Miami, a 28-21 overtime win at Hard Rock Stadium. The Yellow Jackets ended their five-game road losing streak to the Hurricanes and another five-game losing streak in games played away from Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Five takeaways from coach Geoff Collins’ first ACC win:
1. A stunning result
The unlikeliness of Saturday’s win is worth consideration. ESPN’s metrics projected Tech to have a 6.6 percent chance to win the game, and the Jackets were 18-point underdogs. That spread was wider than any that was ever assigned to Tech as an underdog in former coach Paul Johnson’s tenure. In an AJC story Friday, ACC analysts Roddy Jones (ACC Network) and James Bates (Fox Sports South) were both lukewarm about Tech’s chances to win another game this season.
» MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM: A tough win for Jackets
Further, the Jackets prevailed despite having a significant disadvantage in field position. Tech started all 10 of its regulation drives inside its 30-yard line and three inside its own 10. Of Miami’s 11 regulation possessions, the Hurricanes began four beyond their own 35, including two inside Tech’s 35.
Tech did it with a steady run game, a defense that met the moments, scores from all three phases to reach their season scoring high and some help from Miami.
“Unbelievable response from our guys,” Collins said. “The way they played, the way they attacked, the way they stayed in the moment, that was a complete offense, defense and special-teams game.”
2. Star of the game
Running back Jordan Mason played an outstanding game, gaining 141 yards on 20 carries. Mason benefited from a strong run-blocking game from Tech’s offensive line but also did his own work, breaking tackles and eluding defenders.
His 22-yard run that set up his 1-yard touchdown dive in overtime showed superior vision and agility. On a read-option handoff, Mason took advantage of play-side blocks from right tackle Jared Southers, right guard Connor Hansen and center William Lay to run between Southers and Hansen. He danced away from safety Romeo Finley in the hole, slipped off of linebacker Shaq Quarterman’s tackle try and cut back sharply to his left to leave safety Amari Carter grabbing air before being tackled at the 1, a total of 20 yards after contact.
» PHOTOS: Tech stuns Miami in overtime
“It’s all the offensive line,” Mason said. “They got me to the secondary and I just did my thing.”
Saturday, he did it against a defense that was seventh in FBS against the run (77 yards per game) and hadn’t allowed any player to gain more than 76 rushing yards. After seven games, Mason is averaging 81 yards per game and has gained 247 yards in the past two games combined.
3. Hurricanes were off
A week after beating then-No. 20 Virginia, Miami did not offer its best self, even aside from its three missed field goals, all from 34 yards and in. From the perspective of coach Manny Diaz, mistakes on Miami’s part led to Tech’s defensive and special-teams touchdowns. (Gunner Nathan Cottrell was supposed to be driven out of bounds, Diaz said, but Cottrell sped freely downfield, allowing him to catch Pressley Harvin’s pass for a 41-yard touchdown reception.)
There were dropped passes. The tackles that Mason broke also were failures by the Hurricanes defense.
“You need your guys to step up and make plays,” Diaz said.
Beyond that, leading rusher DeeJay Dallas left the game with an injury on Miami’s first drive. Linebacker Michael Pinckney, the team’s third leading tackler, also was forced out with injury in the third quarter. Wide receiver Jeff Thomas, the team’s second leading receiver, was suspended prior to the game for a violation of team rules.
4. Defense stands up
Miami’s three missed field goals didn’t happen in a vacuum. While they were game-changing, Tech’s defense, which had not distinguished itself with third-down stops or run defense, put the Hurricanes in position to have to attempt them by doing both inside the red zone.
In the second quarter, Miami zipped 49 yards in six plays before stalling and trying a field goal from 34 yards that missed. In the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes had first-and-goal at the Tech 8-yard line, but couldn’t get any farther, with linebacker Quez Jackson and cornerback Zamari Walton foiling a reverse on first down and cornerback Tre Swilling making a highlight-reel pass breakup on third down after being left on an island against wide receiver K.J. Osborn. That prompted a miss from 27 yards.
On Miami’s final drive of regulation, after the Hurricanes had gouged Tech with a 50-yard pass on the first play of the possession, the defense held firm when the Hurricanes had first-and-10 from the Tech 11. Defensive tackles Ja’Quon Griffin and Djimon Brooks and safety Christian Campbell all made superior individual plays for stops, leading to Antwan Owens blocking the field-goal try from 25 yards.
“Everybody on the defense just played their 1/11th (Saturday),” Owens said. “Those guys, I just love my teammates. I love my defense. We stepped up big (Saturday).”
5. The glow of victory
Notable quotes from post-game interviews:
Collins: “We practiced scoring a touchdown and however we scored, having a kickoff after a celebration penalty. Now, I wish that it hadn’t gone for a touchdown on that drive, but I just told them to cut it loose and play, have fun, celebrated together, play hard, and they did that.”
Collins: “We talked about all week, and really the last two weeks, either find a way or make one, and our guys just found a way, hunt and pecked and figured out how we can exploit some of the things they were doing (in run defense).”
Mason: “Our last games, (strength and conditioning coach Lewis Caralla), he’ll come in (at halftime) yelling at us because we’re just quiet, we’re not even talking. (Saturday), coach Lew didn’t have to do any of that. We came in, they were jibbering and jabbering. I’m like, OK, I guess we’re good.”
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