They made everyone squirm around in their seats for a while, but the Canes remain unbeaten.
After trailing by as many as 11 in the third quarter and facing a 4th and 10 with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter, No. 11 Miami made all the clutch plays it needed to secure a 25-24 win over visiting Georgia Tech Saturday – capping a 15-play 85-yard drive with a game-winning 24-yard Michael Badgley field goal.
Badgley, who made four field goals Saturday, calmly knocked in the short kick for the win but said he was ready to kick it from even farther out if he needed to.
— J.T. Wilcox (@JTWilcoxSports) October 14, 2017
For the record, it would have been a 61-yard kick if the Canes would’ve elected to try the field goal at that point.
— J.T. Wilcox (@JTWilcoxSports) October 14, 2017
Miami (5-0, 3-0 ACC), which will host Syracuse next Saturday, once again got the game’s biggest play – aside from Badgley’s kick – from redshirt junior receiver Darrell Langham.
On a play that looked eerily similar to the one head coach Mark Richt called in the waning seconds against FSU; Malik Rosier dropped back, looked to his right and heaved a pass towards the 6-foot-6 receiver and Langham outdueled a pair of Georgia Tech defenders to come down with a 28-yard reception.
Langham’s catch – and the subsequent 12-yard rush by Travis Homer – set up Badgely for the clutch kick and punctuated a drive that began on Miami’s 8-yard line with 2:30 left in the game.
Langham ended up finishing the game with five catches for 100 yards while Rosier was 23-of-37 for 297 yards and a touchdown along with 20 yards on 11 rushes.
Rosier said he just wanted to give Langham a chance to come down with the ball.
“I knew I had a one-on-one shot to [Langham’s] side because of something Georgia Tech had been showing us all day,” Rosier said. “He’s a big body receiver and I didn’t want to overthrow him. If you overthrow it, your receiver doesn’t have a chance…so I just wanted to put the ball in play and give him a chance.”
“I was just praying he would catch it,” Rosier said.
The Hurricanes ended up scoring 12 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes of the game to secure the victory in front of 55,799 soaking wet fans at Hard Rock Stadium.
Aided by a torrential downpour that began with the start of the fourth quarter, Miami’s defense was able to slow down the Yellow Jackets (3-2, 2-1) triple option offense just enough – putting the UM offense in position to put points on the board.
Georgia Tech, which came into Saturday’s game as the No. 2 ranked rushing offense in the country (396 yards per game), gashed Miami for 172 yards on 29 attempts in the first half.
Halftime adjustments and what sophomore linebacker Shaquille Quarterman called the team’s “aura” allowed the UM defense to stiffen and hold the Yellow Jackets to just 54 total rushing yards in the second half.
Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall, who had a 249-yard, 5-touchdown performance against Tennessee earlier this season, finished with just 18 rushing yards on 19 carries. He was also 3-for-7 passing for 55 yards and a 3-yard touchdown pass that gave his team a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter.
Canes head coach Mark Richt said that the rain was a blessing to his team.
“The rain seemed to energize the crowd and it energized the team,” Richt said. “The rain started coming down and the team started going nuts and the crowd started going nuts – it helped us.”
Rain or shine, it was Miami’s Travis Homer that turned the game-high rushing total. The sophomore, making his first start in the place of injured junior Mark Walton – who will miss the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury, rushed for 170 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts while also adding a pair of catches for 18 yards and a score.
Homer showed power and speed Saturday. The power on his receiving touchdown when he overpowered a would-be tackler to stretch the ball across the goal line on a catch out of the backfield and the speed on a 17-yard fourth-quarter burst that brought the Canes to within two (24-22) after the missed two-point conversion.
Homer said that being the No. 1 running back for the first time in his college career didn’t faze him.
“I wasn’t nervous, I just went out there and did my job,” Homer said. “I had a normal morning, I didn’t do anything different. My offensive line did a tremendous job and I just went out there and did whatever I could to make plays.”
Miami’s offense as a whole, however, was not fluid early.
Rosier got off to a slow start and missed some early throws that aided in Miami digging itself into the early hole.
Also aiding that hole was a surprising decision by the Canes to open the third quarter with an onside kick.
While the kick caught the Yellow Jackets by surprise, it caught UM by surprise when the kick failed to travel the necessary 10 yards for them to recover it and instead it was scooped up by Georgia Tech’s Lamont Simmons and returned 42 yards for a touchdown – putting Miami down 21-13 not even eight seconds into the second half.
Richt explained the decision, which received much scrutiny from fans on social media, after the game.
“It was something that we saw on film and it was there for us at that moment,” Richt said. “But the ball took a funny bounce and didn’t go far enough; and Braxton [Berrios] was there to recover it but he was caught in a bad spot because he was waiting for it to roll so he could jump on it; and their guy did a good job of picking it up and running with it.”
Bad onside kicks notwithstanding, the Hurricanes are the only undefeated team remaining in the Atlantic Coast Conference – after Clemson’s 27-24 loss to Syracuse this week.
Also, the Canes should find themselves in the top 10 of both major polls after this week as they sit atop the ACC Coastal standings.
Quarterman said that the team’s goal remains the same – to win the Coastal division and play for an ACC Championship.
— J.T. Wilcox (@JTWilcoxSports) October 15, 2017