It definitely was a game of scoring streaks and big numbers for Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Mike James.
Morris passed for a career-high 436 yards, fifth-most in Miami history, James scored four touchdowns and the Hurricanes (3-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-2) for the fourth consecutive time by scoring the game’s first 19 points and the final 23.
The Yellow Jackets scored 36 in a row in between. That might have been enough if the Hurricanes hadn’t stuffed Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington on fourth-and-inches at the Miami 1 in overtime.
James countered with a 25-yard scoring run two plays later to set off a raucous celebration.
“My whole body was numb,” Morris said after completing 31 of 52 passes, including two touchdown throws. “I was so excited, and so happy for the program. Everything we’ve been going through for the past couple years … and to have a big win like that was huge.”
Miami is under NCAA investigation in connection with the athletic department’s relationship with former booster booster Nevin Shapiro. He is in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering and security fraud in connection with a Ponzi scheme.
Perhaps a zero was Morris’ biggest number. He wasn’t sacked and rarely was pressured – especially while he led an eight-play, 91-yard drive in just 1:33 to force overtime. His 10-yard pass to James knotted the score at 36 with 27 seconds left in regulation.
Morris completed 6 of 8 passes on that drive to put Miami in position to hand Tech its second overtime loss of the season. The Jackets dropped their season opener at Virginia Tech when Washington was intercepted. They’ve had three overtime losses in their past five games, including their Sun Bowl loss to Utah last season.
“They just manhandled us, and out-executed us,” Tech linebacker Brandon Watts said after Miami gained 609 yards of total offense and made 30 first downs to the Jackets’ 18. “I felt like we weren’t prepared.”
Georgia Tech rallied furiously from a 19-0 deficit, with Washington rushing for three touchdowns.
After being limited to 39 yards in the first quarter, big plays flipped the momentum in the second quarter for the Jackets.
A 57-yard catch and run by Tony Zenon was the key on their’ 91-yard drive to open the second quarter. Orwin Smith soon swept 8 yards right for Tech’s first score.
On Miami’s next play, Watts forced wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to fumble, and fellow linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days recovered at the Tech 43-yard line.
A 37-yard carry by Tech running back Robbie Godhigh helped set up a 2-yard scoring run by Washington to pull the Yellow Jackets within 19-14.
Minutes later, Jamal Golden’s 56-yard punt return put the Yellow Jackets at Miami’s 23, and they took the lead with a 10-yard run by Washington.
The Jackets’ run-based offense was good for 419 total yards, but their 287 on the ground were actually well below their average of 374 entering the game.
They started the third quarter where they left off. Zenon scored on a 35-yard run and Washington on a 2-yarder. That one, with 10:06 left in the third, gave Tech a 36-19 lead as Tech finished scoring 36 points in a span of 16 minutes and 17 seconds.
But Tech went scoreless over the final 25:06 of regulation, and then in the overtime.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes cranked it up again. They punted to end their first possession of the second half, but their last four possessions in regulation were good for 74, 82, 88 and 91 yards.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Tech head coach Paul Johnson. “I think I’m as disappointed as I’ve ever been … It was like two or three different games. … To their credit, they came back. They made plays at the end of the game and we didn’t.”
James finished with 89 yards and three scores on 15 carries, adding three catches for 24 yards and a TD. His first score came on a 1-yard run at the end of the first quarter, moments after freshman wide receiver Malcolm Lewis suffered what Miami officials said was a dislocated ankle. He was taken to a local hospital.
“I’m sure some people at home turned off their TVs,” James said. “But the team stuck with each other. Guys didn’t quit.”