Choice carries Jackets to win

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MIAMI - Hurricane fans started jeering Georgia Tech's Tashard Choice the moment he stepped onto the Orange Bowl field Saturday.

Tashard Choice ran for 204 yards on 37 carries, both career highs, in Georgia Tech's 17-14 victory over Miami on Saturday.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Tashard Choice ran for 204 yards on 37 carries, both career highs, in Georgia Tech's 17-14 victory over Miami on Saturday.

"Choi-ce, Choi-ce."

"You're the wrong choice, Choice. You're the second choice, Choice."

But once the Yellow Jackets' game against Miami kicked off, the only person to utter his name repeatedly was the Orange Bowl public address announcer.

As in, "Choice carries for a first down."

And "Choice over the right side for eight yards."

And "Choice up the middle for 54 yards."

By game's end, the senior tailback tallied 37 carries for 204 yards. And Georgia Tech had a 17-14 victory before 52,416 quiet Hurricanes fans.

"I love the fans; I just imagined them saying 'Deuce' the whole time," said Choice, who wears double deuces - 22 - on his jersey. "It's fun, man, in an atmosphere like that, playing Miami."

Fun particularly for Choice, who is undefeated in three games against the Hurricanes. He made his starting debut in place of an injured P.J. Daniels two years ago on the same field, rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Choice's carries and yardage Saturday marked career highs, and his 204 yards on the ground was the ninth-best performance in school history. Daniels was the last Georgia Tech tailback to rush for more than 200 yards, gaining 240 against North Carolina in 2003.

That Choice did it behind a patchwork offensive line in a game that could have broken the Yellow Jackets' season made the accomplishment all the more impressive.

Georgia Tech rotated six offensive linemen at four spots, with only left tackle Andrew Gardner playing the entire game. Starting right guard Nate McManus and right tackle Jacob Lonowski sat because of injuries.

Yet left guard Matt Rhodes said he felt the line come together late in the second quarter when a reserve, Dan Voss, returned to the huddle telling his teammates, "I got this. I got this."

Georgia Tech rushed for 192 of its 267 yards and scored all 17 points in the second half against a defense that often put eight or nine defenders near the line of scrimmage to stop the run.

Yellow Jackets quarterback Taylor Bennett ran for both of his team's touchdowns, and Georgia Tech ran out the final 5 minutes, 32 seconds of the game, doing most of the work on the ground.

"It's great to be able to put it on your back, run down the clock and win the game," Rhodes said. "We really came together as a team, and it showed in the fourth quarter."

The victory comes at a crucial point in the season for the Yellow Jacket (4-3 overall, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). They face Army Saturday before a week off to prepare for Virginia Tech.

Linebacker Philip Wheeler sensed the season was in jeopardy at halftime Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets trailed 7-0 and had been hamstrung by mistakes, from a Bennett interception in the end zone to a missed tackle on a fourth-and-1 play that turned into a 39-yard touchdown run by Miami's Shawnbrey McNeal.

"I was trying to rally our troops up to make big plays," Wheeler said. "I told Choice, 'You get the line to block for you, we're in there.' Sure enough, the second half, we got a lot of running yards."

Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or adam.vanbrimmer@morris.com.

Georgia Tech 17, Miami 14

Georgia Tech 0 0 14 3 - 17

Miami 7 0 0 7 - 14

First Quarter

Mia-McNeal 39 run (Zampogna kick), 2:00.

Third Quarter

GaT-Bennett 10 run (Bell kick), 11:58.

GaT-Bennett 3 run (Bell kick), 2:30.

Fourth Quarter

Mia-Shields 3 pass from Wright (Zampogna kick), 10:37.

GaT-FG Bell 39, 7:34.

A-52,416.

GaT Mia

First downs 22 12

Rushes-yards 50-264 38-167

Passing 114 56

Comp-Att-Int 11-29-1 8-18-0

Return Yards 25 1

Punts-Avg. 4-36.8 7-37.1

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0

Penalties-Yards 8-80 8-78

Time of Possession 32:11 27:49

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING-Georgia Tech, Choice 37-204, Nesbitt 4-25, Grant 6-23, Bennett 2-13, Team 1-(minus 1). Miami, G.Cooper 12-66, McNeal 8-48, Wright 8-30, Thomas 1-27, Freeman 2-3, Team 1-(minus 1), James 6-(minus 6).

PASSING-Georgia Tech, Bennett 11-28-1-114, Nesbitt 0-1-0-0. Miami, Wright 8-17-0-56, Freeman 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING-Georgia Tech, Thomas 3-35, Peek 2-25, Choice 1-13, Earls 1-13, G.Smith 1-11, Donley 1-10, J.Johnson 1-4, Nesbitt 1-3. Miami, Shields 4-22, Zellner 3-23, Mabry 1-11.


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