No. 20 Georgia Tech sputters at Miami

Georgia Tech receiver Darren Waller shows his disappointed with Saturday's loss.

Georgia Tech receiver Darren Waller shows his disappointed with Saturday's loss.

MIAMI -- Something about coming to Miami just doesn't sit right with Georgia Tech these days.

And this latest trip knocked the Yellow Jackets out of first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division -- and almost certainly will bump them from the national polls as well.

Held to 211 yards of offense and only 134 on the ground, No. 20 Georgia Tech sputtered in just about every aspect of Saturday's 24-7 loss to Miami. The Yellow Jackets turned the ball over three times, including on their first play from scrimmage, plus allowed a touchdown on a fumbled punt return and gave up a 48-yard kickoff return that set up another Miami score.

"What's killing us right now is we're not executing," Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington said.

Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2 ACC) was held 306 yards below their season average in total offense, 214 off their rushing average and nearly 36 points off their average in scoring -- all of those stats ranking among the top 10 nationally in each category entering the day. Even a banged-up Miami defensive line proved too tough, and it was the first time since 2006 that Georgia Tech didn't have a run or pass play of more than 20 yards in an ACC game.

The Jackets' long play on Saturday: 17 yards.

"I am frustrated that we couldn't find something to do better on offense," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "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."

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 against Iowa at the Orange Bowl following the 2009 season, and then Saturday.

"Clearly, we had an exceptional plan on defense," Miami coach Al Golden said.

JoJo Nicholas recovered a fumbled punt for a touchdown plus added an interception, Lamar Miller ran for 93 yards and a score and Mike James also had a touchdown run for Miami (4-3, 2-2), 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," 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."

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, James going in from 2 yards out for a 7-0 lead.

Nicholas' other big plays in the first half?

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

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.

And that pretty much told the story of Georgia Tech's day.

With 10:17 left in the half, 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."

A 20-play, 92-yard drive put Georgia Tech on the scoreboard late in the half. Washington controlled virtually the entire series, and his 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:02 left cut Miami's lead in half.

"A heck of a drive," Johnson said.

Miami had a heck of an answer.

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.