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Recap: Defense Shines as Canes Wreck Tech, 24-7

Recap: Defense Shines as Canes Wreck Tech, 24-7

MIAMI, Fla. (AP) — Before every game, Miami safety JoJo Nicholas reaches into his gym bag and pulls out a blanket, then rubs it on his hands while saying a quick prayer.

He prays to his son, who died a few weeks ago after being prematurely born.

It’s these moments that make him savor days like Saturday so much more.

Nicholas recovered a fumbled punt for a touchdown plus added an interception, Lamar Miller ran for 93 yards and a score and Miami’s banged-up defense was dominant as the Hurricanes topped No. 20 Georgia Tech 24-7 on Saturday — holding the high-octane Yellow Jackets more than 300 yards and nearly 36 points below their season averages entering the game.

“The first thought that came to my mind was my son,” Nicholas said. “I’ve always appreciated football, and then you learn to appreciate it even more, because life is never guaranteed.”

Mike James also had a touchdown run for Miami (4-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), which won consecutive games for the first time this season and has now beaten Georgia Tech three straight times by a combined score of 92-34.

“Everybody talks about the ACC race or this and that,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “I’m trying to teach them the process. The process, when it takes traction, is what allows you to win multiple games in a row. That’s it.”

Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2) came into Saturday averaging 517 yards of offense. The Yellow Jackets got only 211 on Saturday, their lowest total since a loss to Iowa in the Orange Bowl after the 2009 season. In its last 35 games, Georgia Tech has rushed for less than 200 yards only three times, all at Sun Life Stadium — 95 at Miami in 2009, 143 in the Orange Bowl and 134 in this one.

“It’s frustrating every time you lose,” said Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington, who threw for 63 yards and ran for 36 more — a team-best. “All week long we had a good game plan to come out and get a victory. It’s frustrating for me because I feel I let the team down.”

Washington threw right to Nicholas on the Yellow Jackets’ first offensive snap of the game, a mistake that set Miami up at the Georgia Tech 46. It was doubly costly for the Yellow Jackets, with center Jay Finch going down with what appeared to be a knee injury and eventually getting carted off the sideline for evaluation.

The Hurricanes needed 12 plays to score from there, Harris extending the drive with a 13-yard pass to Phillip Dorsett on fourth-and-3 from the 39, and James later capping it with a 2-yard run for a 7-0 Miami lead.

Nicholas’ other big plays in the first half?

Lots of hustle, and lots of help from Georgia Tech.

“Something we’re doing ain’t right,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said.

Georgia Tech wide receiver Roddy Jones took a pitch and ran 34 yards with 4:09 left in the first quarter, fighting Nicholas off a little too vehemently for the last few of those. Jones was pulled down by an illegal horse-collar tackle, but he also got his fingers inside Nicholas’ face mask while stiff-arming the Miami safety on the play. The penalties offset, and the big gain was wiped away.

With 10:17 left in the half, Nicholas found himself again in the right place at the right time for Miami.

Stats | CaneShooter | SPN Gallery |Notes

  1st 2nd 3rd 4th F
Miami 7 14 0 3 24
GT 0 7 0 0 7

Team Stat Comparison
1st Downs 14 14
Rushing 1st Downs 9 8
Passing 1st Downs 5 6
Net Yards Rushing 134 122
Rushing Attempts 48 41
Avg Per Rush 2.8 3.0
Rushing TDs 1 2
Net Yards Passing 77 140
Cmp-Att-Int 7-14-1 8-23-1
Avg Per Attempt 5.5 6.1
Avg Per Completition 11.0 17.5
Passing TDs 0 0

Individual Stat Leaders
Passing Leaders
  Cmp-Att-Int Yds TD Lng
J. Harris 8-23-1 140 0 48
T. Washington 6-12-1 63 0 17

Rushing Leaders
Miami No Yds TD Avg
  L. Miller 27 93 1 3.4
  J. Harris 8 24 1 3.0
  T. Washington 20 36 1 1.8
  D. Sims 10 29 0 2.9

Receiving Leaders
Miami No Yds TD Lng
  T. Streeter 3 96 0 48
  P. Dorsett 2 32 0 19
  O. Smith 3 26 0 17
  E. Peeples 1 16 0 16

Zach Laskey dropped back to receive a punt for Georgia Tech, the bouncing ball coming straight at him as he stood at the 9-yard line. He tried to grab it as a horde of Hurricanes sprinted toward him, misplayed it and could only watch as the football kept going into the end zone. Nicholas dove on it just past the goal line for a touchdown that put Miami up 14-0.

“On that punt, my job is to get to the ball,” Nicholas said. “It just so happened the ball came to me.”

In the first half alone, Georgia Tech failed on a fake-punt attempt, had the interception to help create one Miami touchdown and then the blown punt return to give the Hurricanes seven more points. Nonetheless, with 1:02 left in the half, the Yellow Jackets were within 14-7.

A 20-play, 92-yard drive for Georgia Tech on the scoreboard. Washington completed all three of his attempted passes during the marathon possession, plus rushed the ball nine times for 22 yards — including a 1-yard touchdown plunge.

“We never hit any big plays,” Johnson said. “We had a heck of a drive in the second quarter to get back in the game, then we give up the touchdown.”

That they did.

Travis Benjamin ran the ensuing kickoff back 48 yards, and Harris hit Tommy Streeter with a 32-yard gain on first down to get Miami to the Georgia Tech 14. Two plays later, Miller ran up the middle for a touchdown from there with 25 seconds left in the half, restoring the 14-point cushion and getting help from a sealing block by guard Jon Feliciano.

It was a costly celebration. Feliciano got hurt jumping around after the score, leaving the game with a leg injury. He rejoined his teammates on the sideline late in the third quarter, on crutches and wearing a walking boot on his left ankle. An X-ray was negative, but Golden is not sure of Feliciano’s status.


Denzel Perryman Olivier Vernon
Lamar Miller JoJo Nicholas
Anthony Chickillo Olsen Pierre
Mike James Darius Smith
Jacory Harris Sean Spence
Tommy Streeter  


Final Notes

Gave the Hurricanes their third consecutive victory over Georgia Tech, taking the three meetings by a combined score of 92-34.
Gave the Hurricanes a .500 Atlantic Coast Conference record.
Is Miami’s second-straight Atlantic Coast Conference victory.
Gave Al Golden a 4-1 record at Sun Life Stadium.

Al Golden is in his first year as Miami’s head coach and owns an overall record of 31-37.

The weather at kickoff was 78 degrees under partly cloudy skies with winds out of the southeast at nine miles per hour. Relative humidity was 55 percent.

Attendance at the game was 43,716.

Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Tyler Horn, JoJo Nicolas.

Miami’s offensive starters today were:
WR Allen Hurns, LT Brandon Washington, LG Harland Gunn, C Tyler Horn, RG Brandon Linder, RT Jonathan Feliciano, WR Phillip Dorsett , WR Travis Benjamin, QB Jacory Harris, FB Maurice Hagens, HB Lamar Miller.
Starting for Miami on defense were:
DE Anthony Chickillo, DT Adewale Ojomo, DT Darius Smith, DE Marcus Robinson, SLB Jordan Futch, MLB Jimmy Gaines, WLB Sean Spence, CB Mike Williams, SS JoJo Nicolas, FS Vaughn Telemaque, CB Brandon McGee.

The Canes are 196-97-8 all-time during the month of October.

After sitting out the first six games of the 2011 season due to suspension, junior defensive end Olivier Vernon returned to the lineup to face Georgia Tech on Saturday.

QB Jacory Harris threw 108 passes in 17 quarters without an interception, a career-best. Harris was intercepted in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech, and the last time he was picked off was in the second quarter against Kansas State.

Miami’s defense forced three turnovers against Georgia Tech, the most since the Canes forced three – two INT and one fumble – against North Carolina on Oct. 23, 2010.

Georgia Tech scored only seven points against Miami, 35.9 points less than the Yellow Jackets’ 42.9 points per game average. Entering the game, the Yellow Jackets possessed one of the nation’s most potent offensive attacks (42.9 points per game), the nation’s second overall offense and rushing attack under Paul Johnson’s patented triple option run scheme.

In back-to-back games, Miami has forced its opponent to turn over the ball on its first offensive touch. Against Georgia Tech, JoJo Nicolas intercepted the Yellow Jackets’ first pass of the game and last week, UM forced and recovered a fumble on UNC’s first kickoff return.
The last time Miami forced the opponent to turn over the ball on its first touch was against Georgia Tech on Oct. 28, 2006, when the Yellow Jackets fumbled on the first play of the game. Tech had not touched the ball before that offensive play because UM downed the preceding punt. Miami hasn’t forced a turnover on the first offensive touch in back-to-back games since at least the 2002 season.

WR Tommy Streeter set career highs in receiving yards with three catches for 96 yards. His previous high was 89 yards last weekend at UNC.

Junior WR Tommy Streeter has made his mark with nine big plays this season, including his 48-yard and 32-yard second-quarter receptions against Georgia Tech. Today is the third time this season that Streeter has had two or more big plays in a single game. Streeer’s longest big play of the year was a 56-yard TD against Bethune-Cookman. See the chart below of Streeter’s big plays (25+ yards) of 2011.
Harris to Streeter, Bethune-Cookman, 56 yards
Harris to Streeter, Georgia Tech, 48 yards
Harris to Streeter, Georgia Tech, 32 yards
Harris to Streeter, Ohio State, 29 yards
Harris to Streeter, North Carolina, 28 yards
Harris to Streeter, Bethune-Cookman, 27 yards
Harris to Streeter, North Carolina, 27 yards
Harris to Streeter, Virginia Tech, 26 yards
Harris to Streeter, North Carolina, 25 yards

Sean Spence racked up 10 tackles against Georgia Tech, including one TFL.

On the Georgia Tech’s first offensive play of the game, JoJo Nicolas intercepted his second pass of the season. His other INT was against Ohio State on Sept. 17.

Junior running back Mike James scored UM’s first TD of the game, a two-yard scamper in the first quarter. This is the second time this season that James has had a TD in back-to-back games and the third time in his career.

After Mike James forced Georgia Tech to fumble a punt in the second quarter, JoJo Nicolas recovered the ball in the end zone to score the first defensive touchdown of his career.

In the second quarter, Georgia Tech scored a touchdown on a drive of 92 yards in 20 plays. The last time an opponent used a 20-play drive against Miami was on Dec. 31, 2004, when Florida drove 55 yards in 20 plays. The Gators scored a field goal on the drive.

In the second quarter, freshman LB Denzel Perryman recorded his first-career sack, a three yard loss for the Yellow Jackets. In the fourth quarter, Perryman forced a fumble, also the first of his career. Perryman tied his career high of seven tackles, a mark he set against Bethune-Cookman earlier this year.

Freshman WR Phillip Dorsett collected 32 yards on two receptions to set a new career high in receiving yards in a game. His previous high was 31 yards against Kansas State.

DL Anthony Chickillo notched a sack against Georgia Tech, increasing his season total to 3.5 in his rookie campaign.

Quotes for Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson

Opening statement…
I thought our kids played hard. I am frustrated that we couldn’t find something to do better on offense, clearly they had a better plan than we did, because we couldn’t get any rhythm, couldn’t get anything going. We couldn’t hit any good plays. We couldn’t overcome the special teams that we had today, and that is a reflection on me.

On fake punt…
I’ll have to look at the tape. It was an automatic call if there is a certain look. I’ll have to see who made the play.

On Zach Laskey’s punt returns…
Clearly today was the worst that has happened to him. He had a few that he had bobbled, but it looked like he just didn’t want to come up and catch them. We never got in sync from the interception on the first play.

On positives …
I thought we played better against the run. (For defense) The killer was the kick-off; it was supposed to be a deep kick.

On Tevin Washington …
It’s not fair to put all of this on Tevin, because there are a lot of us that have to do better.
After looking at the film, I thought we had a chance, and I think we did have a chance, we just didn’t get it done.
We can’t get to the perimeter. I don’t think we would have a tough time in the perimeter, but we just can’t get there.

Quotes for Georgia Tech Players

Euclid Cummings
On getting more reps and feeling more comfortable…
Yes, sir. I am actually feeling more comfortable.

On doing things differently…
Just adding more beef on the line. That’s basically it.

On making it more difficult for opponent to find running lanes…
Yes, we made it harder for them. Or I feel like we did.

On excitement at the beginning of the second half…
Our vibe was just that we believe that we were going to turn around and come out with a W so we were just showing our energy for our offense. That was basically it.

Orwin Smith
On penalties and miscellaneous things happening when he is not involved…
It is very frustrating because that kind of gives the drive a spark. If we’re getting big plays called back, it’s not helping us at all.

On how to improve offense…
I think we can get the quarterback and B-back more involved. I think we should at least give them a chance. We can’t be a one dimensional team. Most teams try to stop the quarterback or stop the B-back. We all have to be rolling just to be a great offense. We have to get everyone back on pace up front and up the middle.

On what Miami did different…
I think obviously just from the success we had early in the season, making sure we didn’t get much on the outside. But also up the middle, they were stopping the run up the middle. They were sending backers left and right, and we just have to counter that and use it to our advantage.

On Miami as a whole…
I feel like they’re like any other team. They just play hard. We have to play hard as a team.

On whether or not they saw things on film that didn’t show up in the game…
Actually, they did exactly what we worked on. I think just the execution part on the offense. They were doing things on certain downs that we were working on all week. We practiced it. We just have to execute.

Tevin Washington

On first play of the game…
I just overthrew the ball. We had Orwin wide open and I made a bad pass.

On what defense was doing different to stop the run up the middle…
The inside guys were starting off with two guys, and then switched to three techniques.

How did the way the game was playing out affect the offense…
When we’re out there playing, it doesn’t do anything to our psyche, but we just have to do a better job executing as a unit.

On losing to Miami three times in a row…
It’s real frustrating. Anytime you lose, it’s frustrating because we prepared all week and thought we had a good game plan to come out and get a victory. For me, I felt like I let the team down. We just have to let it go and move on and get past it to the next game.

Jeremiah Attaochu

On how they attacked Lamar Miller…
It was more team defense. We made a few nicks during the week to cater to their running game. I feel like we did a pretty good job. We could have done better in other areas. But as far as that, I think you’re right about that, we came in and did what we wanted to do.

On psyche of defense after big run back by Benjamin…
Special teams is big. Probably the biggest aspect of the game. We actually discussed it during the week about how important it is to both offense and defense. As far as psyche, we’re coached on defense to not worry about the circumstances and the things we can’t control. Whenever we’re in a situation, we don’t really look at the situation, we just look at ways to overcome the situation.