Man, winning feels good, right?!
The Miami Hurricanes had yet another last second win, this week beating a tough Georgia Tech team 25-24 on a last second Michael Badgley field goal. And now we’re back with another installment of The Day After, reviewing our pre-game commentary and analysis to see just how right we were yet again (SPOILER ALERT: we’re really good at this, and you should start trusting what we say. You’ll see)
Matchup of the Week
1 vs.1 Matchup — DE Antonio Simmons (six foot three, 246 pounds) vs Tyree St. Louis(six foot five, 305 pounds)
Commentary: “...Georgia Tech’s DE Antonio Simmons. The senior leads the Yellow Jackets with three sacks and four tackles for loss. Simmons had a quiet game in the 2016 edition of the matchup, recording two tackles—one of which was a tackle for loss. Miami TE Christopher Herndon IV stayed in to help block Simmons when the defensive end was lined up to his side. When not blocked by Herndon, Trevor Darling and Tyree St. Louis were tasked with stymying the defensive end. Despite his limited statistics in the 2016 game, Simmons found his way to then-QB Brad Kaaya numerous times, often forcing the QB to rush the pass to avoid the sack.
For a Miami offensive line that came into the season with plenty of questions, the unit has performed decently through the first quarter of the season in terms of protecting the quarterback and giving enough time for the skill position players to work themselves open.”
The Day After: This was a matchup that was felt. Simmons was around his season average with 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 TFL (the sacks), and 1 QB hurry. Miami mostly found room to run going to the offensive left/defensive right (i.e. away from Simmons’ side) so he had an impact on the game, to be sure.
Simmons’ play also freed up fellow DL Anree Saint-Amour to make plays along the line. Yeah, that mattered in the game, but wasn’t enough for GT to get the win.
Bonus 1 vs. 1 Matchup — WR Ricky Jeune (six foot three, 212 pounds) vs Miami Cornerbacks
Commentary: “While Georgia Tech does not go to the air often, they do posses a legitimate receiving option when they do. WR Ricky Jeune is Georgia Tech’s top receiver, leading GT with 10 receptions for 171 receiving yards, adding three touchdown receptions. WR Brad Stewart is the only other receiver on the roster for the Yellow Jackets to catch a pass, with the remainder of receptions allotted to four different running backs.”
The Day After: GT is not known for throwing the ball, but when they do, Jeune is who they target. He’s the only player with more than 2 catches for GT, and averages nearly 19 yards per catch.
On Saturday, GT targeted Jeune 4 times, and he ended with 2 catches for 52 yards. On, the 48 yarder, was on a blown coverage by Robert Knowles who was peeking in the backfield on play action (yet again). The 4 yarder was a slip screen on 4th and 8 that ALMOST got loose, but the CB made a nice tackle.
Overall, Jeune only had 1 catch vs a CB in this game, and his only explosive play came on a broken coverage. I’d say that qualifies as Miami having won this matchup, even with the one massive play by Jeune.
Positional Matchup of the Week — Georgia Tech’s Offensive Line vs. Miami’s Defensive Line
Commentary: “It’s not a shock that Georgia Tech is second in country in rushing yards per game. Averaging 67 rushing attempts per game, the Yellow Jackets make their living on the ground, only looking to pass to keep defenses honest or when they see a breakdown in coverage. Playing your keys is fundamental to beating Georgia Tech. State of the U contributor Justin Dottavio has broken down the triple option and what the defense will need to look for on a given play. The defensive interior needs to honor the dive option of the fullback, while the outside containment needs to account for a QB keep or pitch. It’s tedious work against a team that attempts to find leverage against defenses, but it has been successful to this point in the season. The fewest rushing yards the Yellow Jackets have gained this season is 210 rushing yards against Jacksonville State. Georgia Tech has rushed for 400 or more yards in every other game.”
The Day After: Miami gave up some yards to GT — that’s going to happen vs the Yellow Jackets’ flexbone option offense — but the defensive line and defense overall played very well. Miami held GT to 226 yards rushing and a 4.3 yards per carry average. That’s the 2nd fewest yards GT has had in a game this year (210 vs Jacksonville State for those wondering) and the lowest yards per carry of the season.
Furthermore, Miami’s defense held GT to 5/15 on 3rd and 4th downs, and in doing so got Tech’s offense off the field instead of letting drives get longer and longer. Miami also held GT to only 61 plays, 15 below their season average.
Miami didn’t make every play, but they made plenty of them and it started with the defensive line. That’s a win in the matchup, and a win in the game. Bravo, gentlemen.
Bonus positional matchup -- Miami’s Running Backs
Commentary: “With Mark Walton out for the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury, it means a couple guys will need to step up to keep Miami on a roll. Travis Homer has been a stud throughout the season, which should continue now that he is the starter. It will be up to a group of DeeJay Dallas, Trayone “Choc” Gray and Robert Burns (with the odd appearance of WR Jeff Thomas) to shoulder the load moving forward. The biggest concern, more so than who will run with the ball after Homer, is who head coach Mark Richt will trust to stay in and pass block? While there is more pressure on the offensive line to protect QB Malik Rosier, it will be intriguing to see the adjustment Miami makes to protect the QB.”
The Day After: Trayone Gray had a nice game, although his snaps were limited. He had a nice run with a hurdle of a defender that, if not for having to jump over a guy, could have gone for big yardage, if not a TD.
Jeff Thomas got a reverse that only went for 4 yards, but I liked the offensive creativity and the move to get the ball into one of Miami’s fastest players’ hands.
But, this is really all about Travis Homer. Making his first career start, Homer had 20 carries for 170 yards and a TD to go along with 2 catches for 18 yards and a TD. Oh, and that came against GT’s previously 14th ranked run defense, which was only giving up 110 yards per game entering Saturday.
I know that losing Mark Walton was a blow for this team, because you need and want talented players on the team, but man Travis Homer showed that he has the athleticism and skill to be a very good player. Any question Miami had about the RB1 slot are now gone. Homer’s the man.
Caneseye Players to Watch: Georgia Tech QB Ta’Quon Marshall and Miami LB Shaquille Quarterman
Commentary: “The Caneseye Player to Watch for Georgia Tech is QB TaQuon Marshall. The engine that makes the Yellow Jacket offense go, Marshall is a converted A-Back, or running back to the rest of the country. Playing behind center for GT, he is featured heavily in the running game, leading the team with 523 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns and averaging 130.75 rushing yards per game. Through the air, GT has only attempted 33 passes over four games, completing 19 passes with four touchdowns. Marshall is a five-foot-ten quarterback who looks more like a slot receiver however, he has proven resilient to taking big hits. Miami will try to contain the QB as much as possible, which is difficult given his knowledge of the offense and penchant to pitch or keep the ball at opportune moments.”
“The Caneseye Player to Watch for Miami will be Shaq Quarterman. We could really name any one of the Miami linebackers, but Quarterman is the guy who calls out the plays. He will be tested by the Yellow Jackets to get the plays out when they go up-tempo on successive plays, as well as by having to run sideline-to-sideline to chase the ball carrier. Leading Miami with 27 tackles, you can expect to hear Quarterman’s name called out frequently on Saturday.”
The Day After: Marshall had a good, but not great, game. He, like the entire GT team, was much better in the first half than second. For the day, Marshall went 3/7 passing for 55 yards and 1 TD, with a key 3rd down broken up late in the 4th quarter that COULD have allowed GT’s last drive to continue and run out the clock.
But, we all know Marshall’s big numbers were in the run game, both running and distributing the ball to GT’s various backs. Marshall ran 19 times for 18 yards, both well below his season averages. Marshall was held without a touchdown for the first time on the season. Marshall directed Tech’s offense to 226 yards rushing, but that, again, was well below their season average of nearly 400 yards per game.
For Miami, Quarterman had a strong game to combat Tech’s flexbone option offense. The sophomore linebacker had 8 tackles on the day, and was instrumental in getting the defense properly aligned to contain and disrupt Tech’s offense. In that Miami held GT to nearly HALF their rushing average, and allowed only 3 points in the 2nd half — absolutely necessary for Miami to make their comeback — I’d say Quarterman did his job.
Commentary: “Georgia Tech is first in the country in time of possession. They bleed the clock for an agonizing 36 minutes and 39 seconds on average per game. In contrast, Miami ranks 127th in the country, holding onto the ball an average of 25 minutes and eight seconds per game. For the health of Miami’s defense, the offense will truly need to sustain drives to keep the defense, even with a full-rotation of substitutes, as ready as possible against GT’s offensive attack.”
The Day After: Miami held GT to only 32:45 in time of possession. GT had nearly 15 plays less than their season average, and those 15 plays, with their associated time off the clock, would have had GT at or above their average for TOP.
But, again, Miami’s defense did their job, and kept GT from doing one of the things that they do best: play keep away with the football. Job well done.
Commentary: “Meanwhile, Miami’s front seven has been struggling a bit stopping the run, consistently vacating gaps and running too far upfield. FSU gashed the Canes #62 ranked rushing defense last week and, this week, guys like Quarterman, Joe Jackson, and Mike Pinckney will be tasked with playing assignment football and slowing down one of the best rushing offenses in the nation.
Georgia Tech's triple-option offense has been humming along as usual, leading the ACC in rushing while coming in at second in the country on the ground with 396 yards per game. The quarterback is what makes the triple-option really go and TaQuon Marshall is the new starter at QB for GT. It seems as if he hasn’t missed a beat out there, consistently making the right reads and showing explosion in the open field.
The Yellow Jackets actually have the top two rushers in the conference at their disposal. While Marshall leads the ACC with 130.8 rushing yards per game, RB Kirvonte Benson is right behind with 119 rushing yards per game. The pair are extremely difficult for any defensive coordinator to contain and the Yellow Jackets' ability to control the pace of the game with its devastating ground attack is what makes them a nightmare.
That’s not to say GT is all running, though. While they only have 33 attempts, the Yellow Jackets can also create explosive plays through the air, averaging an ACC-best 17.52 yards per completion. Tech WR Ricky Jeune is probably the biggest threat in that department, catching 3 touchdowns along with 171 yards in 2017. The Miami secondary will be hard pressed to keep Jeune and the running game under control, especially with starting cornerback Dee Delaney and starting safety Sheldrick Redwine being held out due to injuries. Wrapping up and limiting yards after contact will be key for replacements Michael Jackson and Robert Knowles, who will be playing this whacky Tech offense for the first time.
"It's about explosive plays, which is really their greatest threat," Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "Everyone thinks about the run game, I think they're fifth in the country in yards per pass attempt and they normally are. They've only thrown it 33 times in four games, but when they do, they get yards. They've got guys down the field that can go get it. The quarterback throws it down the field better than you wish he did. It's the constant threat of explosive plays. Tackling is super important. Our secondary was outstanding tackling in that game a year ago, and will have to be again. There's very little margin for error."
The Day After: As you’ve read, Miami held GT’s rushing offense to just over half their normal output, allowing only 226 yards on the day. They held Marshall 110 yards below his average, giving up only 18 yards on 19 carres (0.98ypc) to the Tech QB.
Additionally, Miami only allowed 53 yards passing, and made several key PBUs in crucial situations.
Lastly, Miami allowed 7 explosive plays (6 runs and 1 pass over 10 yards). The Canes were able to tackle and swarm the ball, and do just enough to pull out a hard fought victory.
Commentary: In our opponent Q&A, Josh Brundage of From The Rumble Seat said the following:
RE: TaQuon Marshall “In short, he’s been a wizard at running this offense his first year seeing playing time. Where many inexperienced QBs will try to do too much and make bad decisions, we really haven’t seen that from him this year. He’s not the breakaway, open-field threat that Justin Thomas was, but he’s still got plenty of speed. He’s a little bigger than Thomas, and so you’ll see much more midline and veer follow plays from him between the tackles.
Per usual for a flexbone QB, he sometimes struggles in the passing game. He’s made some gorgeous throws in this young season, and the talent is still there, but he tends to overthrow his deep balls. However, he averages a 57.6% completion rate and is interception-free, which we’ll take all day in this offense.”
RE: Tech’s defense “For the first time in almost a decade, it seems that the Yellow Jackets have a pass rush. I’m even reticent to type that because I’m scared talking about it will somehow make it go away. Tech has a very good and experienced secondary that’s gotten hung out to dry the last couple season by a lack of a pass rush. If the D-line can maintain the pressure they’ve shown this year, then the pass defense will remain a definite strength.
The weakness, which doesn’t bode well against the Hurricanes, would have to be run stuffing. Even on standard downs, it’s something the defense has struggled with this season…. So that’s a concern for Saturday”
and, for his prediction: “I think this game is a bad matchup for Miami timing and injury-wise. It seems like Tech’s strengths and Miami’s weaknesses work in our favor more than vice versa. I think Miami takes some early momentum and probably jumps ahead 1 or 2 scores. But I think Tech’s health and extra week of rest will come into play in the second half with Tech winning a close one late, 31-28.”
The Day After: Marshall was as advertised running and directing Tech’s flexbone option offense. He didn’t have a big game personally, but the Yellow Jackets had things rolling early, and that was due in large part to Marshall’s play.
Marshall went 3/7 passing for the game, which at 42% is below his season average. Marshall still didn’t throw an interception so that’s good, but he missed throws that Tech needed to keep drives — including the last drive before Miami scored to take the lead — alive, and that just didn’t happen. Good, but not good enough in my estimation.
Tech’s defense was in good form, ending with 5 TFLs and 3 sacks. Antonio Simmons and the pass rush did well to affect Miami’s offense, but they weren’t always able to get home. In the 2nd half, Malik Rosier had time, and was able to find receivers down the field, not to mention the wheel route touchdown to Travis Homer to end the first half.
Billed as an Achilles heel of sorts, Tech’s run defense was gashed by Miami. Travis Homer had 170 yards and the Canes ran for 200 yards before counting sacks, which is just 26 yards less than Tech had. I wish Miami had stuck with the run game a bit more to end drives, but Brundage’s noted weakness for Tech’s defense was indeed weak.
As far as game prediction, while some of the narrative (bad injury luck for Miami, challenging schedule for GT game) was right, the score and result prediction were both wrong wrong WROOOOOOOOOOOOONG.
Commentary: I answered Josh’s questions on From The Rumble Seat, and here’s some of what I had to say:
“I think Miami has a tough test when 3-1 Georgia Tech comes calling, but I believe that the Hurricanes will be up to the challenge. Travis Homer has a game, Malik Rosier plays like "Second Half Malik" from the jump. Defense bends a bit, breaks a couple times, but adjusts at the half and Miami pulls away.
Oh, and we see the turnover chain twice on the Miami sideline.
Final Score: Miami 31 Georgia Tech 20”
The Day After: So, I was right and I was wrong.
I was right about Miami being up to the test.
I was right about Travis Homer having a game.
I was half-right about Malik Rosier (“Second half Malik” only showed up in the second half, and we got a huge dose of “First Half Malik” — aka BAD MALIK — early on).
I was wrong about the turnover chain (I’m sad to say. I miss that gaudy thing)
I was right that the defense would bend a bit, and even break.
I was right that there would be adjustments at halftime and Miami would get the win.
I was wrong on the score, but got the result — a Miami win — right so I’ll take that.
That’s it for this installment of The Day After. And, YET AGAIN, we were overwhelmingly, incredibly, remarkably right.
Love it? Hate it? Have a thought to make this piece better? Hop in the comments and let me know.