JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The last thing Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary wants to see against No. 23 Miami is a score that looks more like halftime in the NBA.
That may be asking too much.
While the 17th-ranked Yellow Jackets led the NCAA in total offense and were second in points scored at 40.7 a game, their defense has been a real wreck. There have been injuries. There have been five teen-agers trying to learn on the run as starters.
And yes, there have been a ton of points.
In today's Gator Bowl, a Tech defense that starts eight underclassmen goes up against a Hurricanes team that has scored 150 points in its past three games.
A defensive struggle doesn't exactly come to mind.
"We'll have our work cut out for us," O'Leary said.
So will Miami (8-4), playing in its first New Year's Day bowl since 1995. The Hurricanes' defense is vastly improved, with shutouts in two of its past three games. Still, Miami hasn't seen an offense as potent as this one.
"Somebody's defense is going to have to show up, or else we'll be playing quadruple overtime, and it will look like an NBA game," Miami coach Butch Davis said Friday. "Both teams have talented skill players on offense."
For Georgia Tech (8-3), it all starts with senior quarterback Joe Hamilton, the Heisman Trophy runner-up who has set 18 school records and is the first player in NCAA history to have 1,500 yards rushing among his 10,000-plus yards.
"He just makes plays all over the field," said Miami defensive tackle Damione Lewis. "There's no way to prepare for a player like that."
Hamilton also has a knack for the comeback, having led Georgia Tech to victory three times in the final quarter or in overtime.
"I've got something I'm going to pull out of my hat for the last game," Hamilton said.
The Hurricanes have gotten solid results from two young quarterbacks -- sophomore Kenny Kelly, who will start today for the first time since an ankle injury against Virginia Tech, and freshman Ken Dorsey, who led Miami to three lopsided wins and also will play against the Yellow Jackets.
Chris Young, a sophomore safety for Georgia Tech, finished watching film of Miami and wasn't sure where to start -- Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne at the wideouts, Daniel Franks at tight end and a trio of running backs led by freshman Clinton Portis.
"They've got the total package," Young said.
But for all the talk about the offense, Davis is curious to see how the defenses respond, having had a month to heal nagging injuries and more than two weeks to plan for one team. Besides, "you don't win eight games apiece if you can't play defense," he said.
Somebody tell that to Georgia Tech, which has allowed at least 40 points in four games this year and is giving up 30.3 points a game.
How bad has this year been? Consider the reaction Young gets on campus.
"To say you play football for Georgia Tech is one thing," he said. "But to say you play defense ... if you could at least say you play on offense, maybe they'll look at you. It's great to see Joe Hamilton on TV, but we want to see highlights of the Georgia Tech defense."
Oh, there have been plenty of highlights -- Peter Warrick running circles around them in a Florida State victory that killed Tech's hopes of winning the ACC; Thomas Jones of Virginia rushing for 213 yards; three touchdown passes that went for at least 60 yards.
Asked whether the Gator Bowl was headed for a shootout, Yellow Jackets receiver Dez White couldn't hold back a grin. By the time he finished his answer, it was all he could do to keep from laughing.
"Looking at the statistics, it seems as though we'll be having a high-scoring game," said White, the co-MVP of the 1998 Gator Bowl when Tech beat Notre Dame. "Hopefully, our defense can step up."
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof is doing what he can with what he's got, but it hasn't exactly been a season to remember. He sees the Gator Bowl as one last chance for his young defense to shine.
Then again, any victory will suffice.
"Whether it's 3-0 or 52-51, as long as Georgia Tech wins," he said.
© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us