Georgia Tech Takes On Miami Hurricanes In Key ACC Matchup

A big road win at Florida State has the fan base buzzing about the end of the losing streak to the dreaded rivals. As Miami returned, they were met at the airport to a water tribute by two fire trucks dousing the airplane as they landed on the runway. That win against Florida State definitely was huge, but Miami paid the price for it. Star tailback Mark Walton is out for the season after injuring his ankle in the game. He was the only returning back in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 1,000 yard season in their resume. To make matters worse, Georgia Tech comes into town with their option offense fresh off of a bye week.

Explosive Option Offense

Whenever Georgia Tech is on the schedule, defenses have to scrap most of what was learned in camp and game plan specifically for the flexbone option attack. On the opening week of college football, many doubted how Georgia Tech would look with a new QB after the graduation of Justin Thomas.

All questions were answered immediately after TaQuon Marshall rushed for 249 yards and five touchdowns on the Tennessee Vols defense, while throwing for another 120 yards in a 42-41 double overtime loss.

Since that time, the Yellow Jackets have been wrecking every team on their schedule, defeating each opponent by a minimum of 18 points. In his first season being the starting quarterback of the Georgia Tech offense, he leads the conference in rushing yards with 523 yards. More than just running the ball, he is sustaining long drives and wearing opposing defenses out. In every game so far, the Yellow Jackets have scored over 33 points.

Adding power and speed to the offense is B-back KirVonte Benson, who replaces Dedrick Mills who was selected preseason All-ACC but was dismissed from the team this offseason.

In his absence, Benson has rushed for 476 yards, which is fourth in the ACC, averaging over five yards a carry. Although he and Marshall make up most of the rushing attack, Jerry Howard looks to be the most explosive ball carrier on the roster leading the team in yards per carry with 9.6 yards per carry.

Although there isn’t much of a passing attack for the Yellow Jackets, when they do decide to get exotic and throw the ball, the main target is Ricky Jeune, a six-foot-three target that led Georgia Tech in receptions last season.

Clock Control

One would hope that Georgia Tech’s defense is very thankful of the option attack seeing as they allow the defense to rest for most of the game. The Ramblin’ Wreck lead the nation in time of possession once again chewing up an average of 36 minutes per game.

Coincidentally in their only loss this season, Tech had the ball for 41 minutes and dominated the time of possession but couldn’t close the deal. Against the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Yellow Jackets had the ball for 38 minutes and did not allow the Tar Heels offense to ever get a rhythm due to their defense being on the field for much of the snaps. Coming into the game, this is something Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt has already acknowledged that the offenses have less drives due to Georgia Tech controlling the clock.

War Wounds

The Hurricanes are getting into the meat of their schedule and may have to do so without some fairly important pieces on both sides of the ball. On top of losing Walton for the entire season, the Hurricanes are still not sure of the status of Ahmon Richards. The sophomore receiver that is responsible for breaking Michael Irvin‘s freshman receiving record last season, continues to be hobbled by a hamstring injury. On the offensive line, starting right guard Navaughn Donaldson left the Florida State game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury and did not return.

The good news for the Hurricanes is that the team was already without the three of them on the final drive against a talented Florida State defense and still scored. Travis Homer takes over the starting tailback position and will get to build off his 212 yards this season and eight yards per carry average. Behind him, Miami will need quality play from a thin group after the Walton injury. Redshirt junior Trayone “Choc” Gray will finally get a chance to get more carries as he moves into the backup role.

Corey Gaynor more than likely gets the start if Donaldson can not play. Both are freshman and are highly coveted, as Richt uses Gaynor as a fullback on goal line situations. Without the big play of Richards, more creative ways will be needed to find explosive players like receiver Jeff Thomas the ball.

Defensive Discipline

Last season, the defense scored two touchdowns off of turnovers, that same level of discipline will be required. Trent Harris had two sacks last season, and the rest off the defensive line disrupted the option attack. Coming off of a nine tackles for loss performance, the Hurricanes hope there is more to come because the defense will be relied on heavily.

Communication breakdowns seemed to have followed the secondary this season with the graduation of seniors Jamal Carter, Corn Elder, and Rayshawn Jenkins. In order to contend with Georgia Tech, those will have to be corrected quickly as the option offense feasts off of players being in the wrong place.

Miami will need to take advantage of this home game as Georgia Tech is the last FBS school to play a road game. The game against UCF was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, and every game has been in the friendly confines of Atlanta. This could be a big factor with a team that has a first year starter at key positions.

Main Photo Credit:

Duke Johnson #8 of the Miami Hurricanes stopped short of the goal line by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)