Miami Hurricanes Offense Set To Clash With Georgia Tech Defense

Georgia Tech week always brings about lots of talk about stopping the triple option.

The Yellow Jackets feature an offense that teams rarely see outside of the one week they face Paul Johnson's team. But Georgia Tech's defense is worthy of just as much conversation as its efficient running game and explosive passing attack.

The Hurricanes (4-0, 2-0 ACC) will face a Georgia Tech defense that leads the ACC and ranks sixth in FBS in total defense, allowing just 260 yards per game. Miami head coach Mark Richt, who has a 14-2 record as a head coach against Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0 ACC), has a lot of respect for Yellow Jackets defensive coordinator Ted Roof and expects Tech to be ready for the Canes.

"His defenses are always extremely fundamentally sound," Richt said. "Great tacklers, great hustling. They get lined up, they don't get confused. They do a superb job there. The secondary is very, very experienced. [A.J.] Gray, a former Parade All-American, kind of leads that. [Brant] Mitchell, I think this is like his 30th game for them as a starter. [Antonio] Simmons leads the defensive line with 12 tackles and three sacks. A very physical group and I'm sure they'll be well-rested for this game."

Georgia Tech's defense has played well over its first four games and it has the statistics to prove it. The Yellow Jackets are second nationally in third-down conversion percentage and have allowed the fewest first downs in the country at 54.

"They're a very good defense," Miami quarterback Malik Rosier said. "They throw a lot of different stuff than what they did in the previous years, so you really have to be on your P's and Q's. They're 3-1, they know how to win, they're fast, they're physical. So, for us it's just doing our job every play cause like I said with FSU, if you make a little mistake they'll get a turnover, they'll stop you. And their offense hangs on to the ball for a while so every time we touch it we have to put points on the board."

Speaking of hanging on to the ball, Georgia Tech's offense leads FBS in time of possession. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 36:39 per game on offense, and that helps their defense and puts pressure on opposing offenses to score early and often.

"You have to make the most of every opportunity because they're not going to give you a bunch and they will eat up eight to 10 minutes at a time," Miami offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said. "If you go out there and go three and out and punt the ball away; you don't want to put your defense in a bad spot when you come off the field against a run-heavy offense. They have some questionable cut techniques. Being able to maximize the opportunities that you have, convert on third downs and when you have a chance to score in the red zone, you have to score touchdowns."

The time of possession battle is one that Miami will have to be prepared for. Veterans like wide receiver Braxton Berrios know it is a mental battle to stay focused and ready while Georgia Tech's offense runs the clock and keeps the Hurricanes offense on the sideline.

"It's frustrating," Berrios said. "You get anxious to get out there. It's different, we only do it one time a year so you'll never get used to it. I've gone through it three times now but you're still not used to it. When we get out there we have to be effective, we have to be efficient, we have to make sure we put points on the board. If they get down, it's a lot harder for them to come back with that offense and how much time they chew up. We just have to be efficient when we get out there."

Miami's offense will be down one key player, as All-ACC running back Mark Walton suffered a season-ending injury against Florida State, but several other Canes are nicked up entering this week's contest against Georgia Tech. Senior offensive lineman Kc McDermott is confident the Hurricanes have the depth to continue their success on Saturday.

"I am banged up, we have guys who are banged up...that's exactly what football is – it's a tough physical sport," McDermott said. "That's why we have to have depth, and we have the depth this year to have guys who are ready to step up and take the place of [the starters] if need be. That goes along with the maturity of this team and something that we discussed the entire offseason. We wanted to make sure everyone understands 'the next man' mentality because injuries can happen at any point in the season."

Darrell Langham is one player who stepped up when his name was called a week ago, scoring the game-winning touchdown against Florida State on just his second offensive snap of the game. Rosier believes Langham is one of the several receivers who could play a factor this weekend with increased reps, but one freshman has really caught his eye in practice this week.

"For me right now it's been Jeff Thomas," Rosier said. "He's in a lot of reps. He made three one-handed grabs today. He's really coming into his own. He's kind of getting like Braxton now because he's behind Braxton. He's starting to perfect his routes which is really nice. And Darrell Langham. Darrell Langham is making big plays for us still, so it's going to be exciting seeing those two guys play on Saturday."

Saturday's game will be Miami's first at home since hosting Toledo on Sept. 23. While the Hurricanes have received tons of fan support in road wins at Duke and Florida State, Richt and the Canes are eager to be back on their home field with the crowd behind them.

"We're ready for an exciting game," Richt said. "I'm very thankful and excited to be at home. We haven't been at Hard Rock in a while. I know our fans are going to do an unbelievable job for us, as far as being there for the Cane Walk and also being there to cheer. Our student body will be there. Last game we played at home, our student body was still out of town. Now they'll be back. I remember Game 1, they were ready. They were there early, they were ready and they made a difference."