Miami senior quarterback Stephen Morris threw for 324 yards and three scores as the University of Miami defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 45-30 in front of 47,008 fans at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens Saturday afternoon.
"What a gutsy performance from Stephen Morris," Miami coach Al Golden said after the game. "You can tell he is not 100 percent. We learned a lot about our team today. We learned a lot about our leadership."
Tailback Duke Johnson rushed for 184 yards on 22 carries, two yards short of an all-time best and Dallas Crawford scored twice for Miami. Miami's secondary held Tech to 66 yards passing, but did yield 354 yards rushing on 62 carries. David Sims led the Jackets with 77 yards rushing on 16 carries.
"I had written on my notes that this was going to be a Duke Johnson game," Golden said. "And it was. And what can you say about what Dallas Crawford does when he comes in? I am really proud of those guys and how they work in cooperation with each other. It's great."
The Canes came out of the locker room at half time facing a tie game at 17. They would go on to outscore the Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech 28-13 in the second half to will their way to victory. After yielding 150 yards rushing in the first quarter, Miami's rushing defense locked down on the triple option and tightened up around the edges. Justin Renfrow looked good sealing up the middle which forced Tech to continue to try to force the ball outside after Miami made adjustments to lock down the edges.
"They just locked down," Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said, "They fought through it and didn't point any figures. They're built for this."
After Morris throw his second pick of the game, he settled down and UM moved the ball with ease. Miami was was driving deep in the GT red zone after a Johnson run to the two yard line. However, a holding call on Shane McDermott moved the ball outside the twenty yard line and put Miami in a passing situation. Morris then threw to the outside, intended for Herb Waters, and it was picked off by Quayshawn Neely. The pick was the fifth of Neely's career.
"We can't give the ball up," Morris said. "The score and the momentum would have been a lot different. We need to do a better job on that."
Miami finally broke the deadlock when Morris hit Allen Hurns with a 69-yard pass play that saw Dorsett layout two perfect blocks on the run after the catch. Hurns finished the day with 108 yards on four receptions. The drive was another of the quick strike variety as Miami was on the field for 1:44.
Dorsett fumbled a poor punt on Tech's ensuing drive and gave the ball back to Georgia Tech at the UM 42. Sims made the Canes pay for the snafu as he scored his second touchdown of the game and it could have tied the game at 24, but freshman long snapper Trevor Stroebel bounced the snap back to the holder and the point after was missed. Miami led 24-23 with 10:38 to play.
Miami expanded the lead on the following drive when Crawford scored from the three. After five Johnson runs that netted the Canes 23 yards and a 37 yard pass to Coley, Crawford gave Miami a 31-23 lead that they would not surrender.
Crawford put the game away on the next drive with a 19 yard scoring run. Ladarius Gunter put the exclamation mark on the game with a 30-yard interception return of a Lee pass with 1:08 to play.
On Tech's first drive of the game Miami learned what it was like to finally trail in a ball game. For the first time this season, Miami was on the opposite end of the score. Tech took an early 7-0 lead as tailback Sims scored the first of his two touchdowns on the day. Sims scored on a ten-yard scamper.
"We couldn't have scripted a better start," Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "We were holding the ball and keeping the ball away from them."
The lead did not last very long, about :32 seconds, as Miami struck back in two plays as Morris hit Phillip Dorsett with a 40 yard skinny post to tie the game at seven. Dorsett beat the corner and the safety and made a finger-tip catch in the middle of the end zone.
Tech regained the lead 5:45 later as Harrison Butker connected on a 45-yard field goal on the next drive. Five different ball carriers moved Tech 43 yards in 11 plays.
Miami took over on the 23 yard line and was poised to make a move when Johnson fumbled for the second straight game. That fumble proved costly as Charles Perkins seized the opportunity and ran a sweep around the right edge for 31 yards and the score. That put Miami in what appeared to be an insurmountable 17-7 deficit.
"He's going to get it fixed. I do not have a concern level," Golden said. "Nobody works harder at it. It was unfortunate."
At that point in the game, Miami could not find a way to stop the Tech ground game around the edges. They contained the fullback and the middle of the field, but were giving up yardage by the bunches outside of the tackle boxes. Tech rushed for 150 yards in the first quarter.
Georgia Tech, on its very next drive, could have delivered the knockout punch to Miami as they were driving deep in the UM end, but quarterback Vad Lee fumbled in the UM red zone and Jimmy Gaines recovered. Morris, who is always deadly after an opposing turnover, led Miami on a seven-play drive that ended with a five-yard strike to Clive Walford for the score. Miami cut the lead to 17-14 and the momentum was beginning to turn.
The Canes ended the first half with a Matt Goudis field goal to tie the score at 17-17 heading into the locker room at the break. Golden was facing a fourth down deep in the GT end with under a minute to play and instead of gambling, took the sure three points and made it a new game heading into the third quarter.
"I was excited about 17-17. I think that breathed some life into us at that point," Golden said. "I didn't want to mess around with 4th and 2. I didn't want to mess around with that."