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After losing to Florida State for the past seven years, Miami has generally gone on a downward slide. That will not be the case in 2017 after Miami finally got the job done in an instant classic up in Tallahassee. The Hurricanes saw Malik Rosier take a major step forward in his career by putting together one of the most impressive game-winning drives in Miami Hurricanes history that ended with a fade route to Darrell Langham, who made an incredible play on the ball to catch it over Tarvarus McFadden. So, for the first time since my freshman year of high school, we are going to see how Miami plays after beating Florida State.
It has not always been the fact that Florida State beats us, but rather how they physically impact our team. Duke Johnson broke his ankle during the FSU game in 2013, a season that Miami was undefeated in up until that game, which lead to a three game losing streak. In this years matchup, Miami is going into a game against Georgia Tech without two defensive starters and, potentially, three offensive starters. Sheldrick Redwine, one of Miami’s starting defensive backs, is out with an upper extremity, while Navaughn Donaldson and Dee Delaney are out with lower extremities. Ahmonn Richards is still questionable, but he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. That leads me to believe that he likely will not play on Saturday.
Despite the injuries, Miami still has to go out and play a 3-1 Georgia Tech team that is coming into Miami with two weeks of rest. Georgia Tech already has wins over two ACC schools, Pitt and North Carolina, that have a combined record of 2-7. Yes, the Yellow Jackets dominated those games, but they have yet to play any quality competition. Georgia Tech’s only other win came against Jacksonville State. They gave up 42 points in an overtime loss to Tennessee, but few would consider Tennessee to be a good team.
TaQuon Marshall, the quarterback for the Yellow Jackets, does a good job of running an offense that is older than Jesus. He has only completed 19 passes on the year, but he is the teams leading rusher with 523 yards and nine touchdowns. If he does throw it, more than half of the time it is going to senior wide receiver Ricky Jeune. Jeune has caught 10 of those 19 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Brad Stewart has the second most receptions with three. I anticipate that Marshall will have to pass more in this game with Miami simply because the defense is not going to let them run all over us. They have played against inferior front sevens that the Yellow Jackets have been able to consistently attack. Miami is a different monster. The Hurricanes rank fourth nationally in both tackles for loss and sacks. Georgia Tech understands that this game is going to be very different than any of the games they have played this season.
KirVonte Benson has been the feature back for Georgia Tech this season. The sophomore back has ran for 476 yards on 84 carries, good for 5.7 yards a carry. Benson is built like a fullback at 5-9 211 pounds. He is not going to burn you with his speed, but he has been able to bounce off tacklers and run for big gains. He had a 63 yard touchdown run two weeks ago against North Carolina. Overall, Georgia Tech has eight guys that are averaging over five yards per carry, including freshman Jerry Howard who they are high on. They also have five people with runs of over 35 yards, although that is not something that should come as a surprise. All Georgia Tech does is run the ball. Their offensive lineman go straight at the defenders knees to back them up and try to chop up the field by creating excruciatingly long drives to eat up the clock. They have done that well this year. In the first half of their last game at North Carolina, the Yellow Jackets had two separate drives, that combined, took up more than a full quarter of play. One drive in the first quarter lasted eight minutes and 54 seconds that ended with a touchdown, and the other was seven minutes and 37 seconds that ended with a field goal. Miami needs to limit those long drives by creating tackles for loss on early downs and force TaQuon Marshall to make a throw.
The Georgia Tech defense is allowing just 19 points per game, which is good for fifth in the ACC. Georgia Tech’s defense will likely be the third best the Hurricanes have faced this season. Duke was leading the nation in third down defense when Miami pulled up to Durham and Florida State always has an elite defense, so that leaves Georgia Tech in the middle of the pack. The biggest question for Miami is going to be the running game. How is Travis Homer going to handle being the guy now for Miami? If you ask me, based on what I have seen from him, I would say that he is going to do great. Walton looked great all year, but it was obvious he was not completely healthy. Against Duke, Walton was not able to put together many big runs. Travis Homer came in and broke out a touchdown run for 40 yards. On that last drive against Florida State, Homer had a couple of huge runs after Mark Walton went down. Most importantly, Travis Homer is healthy. That alone is going to help boost our running game. Walton was having trouble making certain cuts and breaks because of his lingering ankle problem. Homer is going to burst through the holes and make all of those cuts at full speed. Not to mention the kid flat out flies. I believe Homer is going to have a great game against this defense. Behind him the rotation gets a little tricky. Trayone Gray has not been able to put it all together, on the field at least, and Robert Burns is likely going to be redshirted. I would love to see Deejay Dallas get some touches in the backfield. That kid will do anything to get on the field and this could be the perfect opportunity for him to do so.
Georgia Tech does not seem to have a very good pass rush and that could greatly benefit Miami. Malik Rosier does not like the pressure in his face too much, but if you give him a clean pocket he can drop some dimes or take off and run it. Miami’s biggest target, Ahmonn Richards, is questionable going into this game. Hopefully he can go, but if not Miami has plenty of weapons ready to make plays. Every week we are seeing freshman wide receiver Jeff Thomas become more involved in the game plan. If Richards is not going to play, it creates opportunities for Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley, who started the first two games in Richards absence, to play more snaps. I want to see these kids pop off and this could be the week it happens. Braxton Berrios has been playing outside of his mind this year and I could not be happier for the kid. He is intelligent on and off the field and he has worked hard for every opportunity he has been given. He is the true epitome of what it means to be a Miami Hurricane. I know this offense is going to give Georgia Tech a hard time, even without Navaughn Donaldson. Corey Gaynor has that dog in him. He is going to step up for this chance to play on Saturday.
Defensively, Miami knows what they have to do. Against Georgia Tech everybody has to know their assignment and trust the guy next to him to know theirs. You cannot try to be a hero against this team. There is so much misdirection and so much movement going on behind the line of scrimmage that you have to trust your coaching and stick to the assignment given to you. Any slip on the mental side of a play and they can pop off a huge run. What gives me comfort is knowing that everybody on the front seven has seen this offense before. They have a new quarterback running the show, but it is all the same things. If the defensive front can beat the chop blocks and get behind the line of scrimmage quickly, then Miami will do what they have to do in order to win this game.
In their last two games, Georgia Tech last fumbled the ball eight times and lost six of them. Joe Jackson and Shaq Quarterman both created forced fumbles in last years game and Manny Diaz hopes to see some of the same in this years matchup. The defense needs to take possessions away from the Georgia Tech offense because they will run down the clock if you let them hang on to the ball. The turnover chain needs to be brought out Saturday afternoon more than once.
Mark Richt is very familiar with Paul Johnson and the Georgia Tech triple-option. Richt poses a demanding 22-2 record against the Yellow Jackets in his career and Miami is 7-1 in their last eight games against Georgia Tech.
Despite having two weeks to get ready for the Hurricanes, the Yellow Jackets will struggle to move the ball against a superior defensive unit. I say that Miami forces three fumbles on Saturday. It will be a big day for the Hurricanes defense that will be hungry to prove that there will be no set back from an emotional win over Florida State. They are going to run the ball 50 times against us and will get theres from time to time, but overall this defensive unit is going to hold Georgia Tech to their lowest amount of points of the season.
Offensively, Malik Rosier is going to have a great game. I have him going for around 275 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Travis Homer is going to pop off for over 100 yards in his first game as a starter and a freshman, either Jeff Thomas or Mike Harley, will catch their first touchdown pass of the season. I am going to lean toward Jeff Thomas. There will be no set back for the Hurricanes in this clash of ACC Coastal teams and Miami goes on to be undefeated for another week.
Georgia Tech: 20