Georgia Tech-Miami Preview
Georgia Tech isn't panicking after its first loss of the season. Instead, it's proceeding cautiously.
The 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets will get another tough test when they take on Miami at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday.
Following an easy run through its non-conference schedule, Georgia Tech (6-1, 3-1 ACC) has faced a stiffer challenge against its conference foes. After escaping with a 21-16 victory over Maryland on Oct. 8, the Yellow Jackets came up short in a 24-21 loss to Virginia on Saturday.
Tevin Washington carried the ball 26 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns, but completed just 2 of 8 passes for 24 yards and a pair of interceptions.
Washington connected on 64.3 percent of his passes for 821 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception over his first four games, but he's completed 30.8 percent of his passes for 255 yards, two TDs and three picks in the last three.
"We probably need to throw it a little more in this game and get some confidence back," coach Paul Johnson said. "We need to hit some big plays in the passing game. The things I've noticed the past two weeks is that we haven't hit any big plays in the passing game. Earlier in the year we were able to hit the play action and do some things."
There have also been issues with the defense, which has given up 520 yards on the ground the last two games and allowed a season-worst 409 total yards against the Cavaliers.
That unit, however, could get a boost as outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu may return this week after missing two games with a leg injury. He has 29 tackles - five for a loss - and a team-leading four sacks.
Despite some concerns, the Yellow Jackets are still at the top of the ACC Coastal standings.
"Our guys are going to have a good attitude," Johnson said. "You know, we're disappointed we lost, but the sky is not falling. We're 6-1. Before you bury us, let's at least give us a chance to play another couple games."
Washington and Georgia Tech's No. 2-ranked rushing attack (347.9 yards per game) could find it easier to run with Miami defensive tackle Micanor Regis out. The senior was suspended Wednesday for punching North Carolina wide receiver Dwight Jones in the third quarter of Saturday's 30-24 victory.
While Regis' absence certainly hurts a Hurricanes defense that's already 94th against the run (187.0 ypg), quarterback Jacory Harris and running back Lamar Miller could help Miami (3-3, 1-2) keep pace with Georgia Tech.
Harris had his third straight impressive performance in the win at Chapel Hill, completing 20 of 30 passes for 267 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Harris hasn't thrown an interception in three straight games - he has eight TDs - and only has three this season. Last year he had 15.
"He's playing good football," coach Al Golden said. "I think he's settling in. I know there are other guys in the country throwing for 400 yards, but he's throwing the ball out of bounds when he has to throw it out of bounds, he's not giving it to (opponents). He's doing all the things that you expect from somebody who has played as much football as he has."
Miller, meanwhile, will look to take advantage of Georgia Tech's struggling run defense. But after topping 100 yards in his first five games, he was held to 29 on 16 carries last weekend.
Despite the progress on offense, the Hurricanes' run defense isn't the only problem. Miami has given up more than 400 total yards in three straight games, including an average of 299 through the air in the last two.
Golden thought there was some progress by the defense after the intermission against North Carolina. Of the Tar Heels' first three possessions in the second half, two ended in a punt and linebacker Jordan Futch recovered a fumble on the other.
"Not great yet, but definitely progress from previous weeks," Golden said of his defense.
Miami has won two in a row against Georgia Tech. Harris has five TD passes in two meetings with the Yellow Jackets, though he missed last season's 35-10 win while recovering from a concussion.