Yel­low Jack­ets on Mi­ami: ‘We’ve been wait­ing on this one’

The Telegraph (Macon) - - Sports - BY KEN SUGIURA

The mem­o­ries from Ge­or­gia Tech’s loss to Mi­ami last year are still quite fresh for the Yel­low Jack­ets.

“You go home af­ter a loss like that and you re­mem­ber it the whole year,” line­backer Brant Mitchell said. “We’re def­i­nitely ready to get back out there. Got to beat th­ese guys. This is go­ing to get us bowl el­i­gi­ble and so we’ve got a lot of mo­ti­va­tion go­ing into this game.”

For those whose mem­o­ries aren’t quite as keen as Mitchell’s, Tech led 24-13 with as few as four min­utes to play in the third quar­ter but lost 25-24. The killer was Mi­ami’s con­ver­sion of a fourth-and-10 with un­der a minute to play with a 28-yard pass in which Jack­ets de­fen­sive backs La­mont Sim­mons and A.J. Gray both had a shot at the ball, which bounced off the face­mask of re­ceiver Dar­rell Lang­ham be­fore he caught it as he fell to the ground. Mi­ami kicked the gamewin­ning field goal from 24 yards out with four sec­onds left.

“We’ve been wait­ing on this one,” quar­ter­back To­bias Oliver said. “We’ve had it marked on our cal­en­dars. We’re def­i­nitely look­ing for­ward to it.”

What com­pounded the de­feat for the Jack­ets was its emo­tional toll. With a road win over the thenNo. 11 Hur­ri­canes, the Jack­ets would have im­proved their record to 4-1 and pos­si­bly jumped into the top 25 for the first time since the start of the 2015 sea­son.

In­stead, Tech took its sec­ond loss in its first five games in which it led by two scores in the sec­ond half only to lose in gut­punch fash­ion. (The sea­son-open­ing loss to the Vol­un­teers was in dou­ble over­time, in case you might have for­got­ten.)

“From there, I think it was kind of a turn­ing point of our sea­son last year,” quar­ter­back TaQuon Marshall said.

Tech was 2-4 af­ter that, in­clud­ing two more losses in which it gave up dou­ble-digit leads.

Be­yond last sea­son’s rain-soaked de­feat at Hard Rock Sta­dium, the Jack­ets have more than a few scores to set­tle with Mi­ami in coach Paul John­son’s ten­ure. At his weekly news con­fer­ence Tuesday, John­son went into con­sid­er­able de­tail of the team’s 42-36 over­time loss to the Hur­ri­canes in 2012, a game they trailed 12-0, then led 36-22 be­fore los­ing.

“I can re­mem­ber it like it was yesterday,” John­son said, “be­cause we were up seven, we had the ball at mid­field. It was fourth-and-1 with about a minute and 30 sec­onds to go or a minute-forty. There wasn’t much time. (John­son’s mem­ory is pretty good. It was a fourth-and-1 at the Mi­ami 48 with 2:06 left in reg­u­la­tion.) I got talked out of (go­ing for it), which was prob­a­bly right. (Af­ter punt­ing), four play later (ac­tu­ally eight plays), they score, we’re in over­time. Then we get into over­time, we get down on the goal line and we’ve got fourth and 6 inches (ac­cu­rate), and we check a play and run a dif­fer­ent play and lose the game. Games like that are the ones that are hard to let go be­cause I keep think­ing I should have went for it on fourth-and-1 be­cause if I make the first down, the game’s over.”

Tech fans can re­live the agony, start­ing at the 28:16 mark.

In 2013, the Jack­ets led 17-7 early be­fore fall­ing 45-30. In 2015, they led 7-0 but lost on a day when Justin Thomas was knocked out of the game, light­ning halted the game and the Jack­ets fum­bled nine times. In 2016, Tech was down 14-7 when two fum­bles in a span of three plays from scrim­mage were re­turned for touch­downs.

“It’s been a tough game for us,” John­son said. “We’ve had a hard time beat­ing them.”

In his 10 sea­sons, John­son is 2-8 against the Hur­ri­canes, his poor­est record against any of the eight teams that the Jack­ets play an­nu­ally. A win Satur­day night – to gain bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity, to stay alive in the ACC Coastal Divi­sion race ( pend­ing the out­come of the Pit­tVir­ginia Tech game ear­lier in the day; the Jack­ets need Vir­ginia Tech to win) and to hand out some pay­back, with Jack­ets tor­men­tor Mark Richt on the other side­line, no less – would be a most wel­come out­come for the Jack­ets, es­pe­cially so for a coach who de­lights in set­tling scores.

AL DIAZ adiaz@mi­ami­her­ald.com

With Ge­or­gia Tech de­fen­sive back La­mont Sim­mons cov­er­ing him, Hur­ri­canes re­ceiver Dar­rell Lang­ham hauls in a pass that set up a late first down dur­ing last sea­son’s game at Mi­ami. The Hur­ri­canes kicked a field goal with four sec­onds left to win 25-24. The teams will meet again this week­end at Ge­or­gia Tech.

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