MIAMI GARDENS — Five quick thoughts after No. 11 Miami’s 25-24 win over Georgia Tech, which ended with a spectacular catch, a winning kick, and rowdy, rainy celebration at Hard Rock Stadium:
Everything is still on the table.
Miami (5-0, 3-0 ACC) entered the game as the only unbeaten team in the ACC, one of seven Power Five unbeatens, and owners of the second-longest winning streak in the country (nine games, dating to last Nov. 5). UM was looking for its first 10-game win streak since 2003-04.
The Hurricanes also controlled their destiny in the ACC, having a spotless conference mark, and a chance to hang a loss on one of the early contenders for the Coastal Division crown.
On all counts, mission accomplished.
Michael Badgley’s 24-yard field goal with four seconds remaining gave the Hurricanes another improbable win, after another come-from-behind drive in the final minutes.
“Just another day in paradise,” coach Mark Richt said. “That’s how we roll, I guess. … There’s something going on that’s really good right now. Who knows where it’s going.”
It’s all going well so far.
The situation: fourth-and-10 at the enemy 43, ballgame on the line.
The play call: going for it.
The result: Malik Rosier to Darrell Langham, who bobbled it, fell backward and made a 28-yard catch to put Miami at the 15.
Can you believe that? It happened.
“My jaw dropped,” linebacker Shaq Quarterman said.
The same hero as last week’s win at Florida State, Langham, the little-used redshirt junior from Santaluces High, made a catch with a defender draped all over him. He saved the season once again. Another critical catch, and a career-best five-grab, 100-yard game, from a player few believed would ever make an impact at UM.
Richt said he max-protected, and sent three receivers on go-routes. He told Rosier to put the ball in play, and was a bit surprised the quarterback threw to Langham into double-coverage.
“I guess he believes in him,” Richt said, calling the play a “minor miracle.”
Miami has trailed at halftime against Toledo, Florida State and Saturday, against Georgia Tech. Discussing a team’s “belief” invites cliches, but it’s hard to ignore: Miami has no doubt it can win any game, and that’s powerful. We don’t know how the season will twist from here, but teams that accomplish something usually have that quality.
“You just feel an aura” of belief in the locker room, Quarterman said. “We don’t know how it’s going to happen, but we know we’re going to be victorious.”
Miami’s offense came through.
Starting at its own 8 with two minutes, 30 seconds remaining, UM had work to do to erase Georgia Tech’s 24-22 edge.
Braxton Berrios got Miami out of danger with 14-yard catch, and couldn’t keep his balance on a wet field, gaining 9 and slipping out of bounds.
With a light rain returning to the field — it looked like a blizzard at one point early in the fourth quarter, then tapered off — Rosier used screen passes to Berrios (3 yards) and Chris Herndon (7, 13, 9 yards) to move the chains into Georgia Tech territory.
Rosier closed 23-of-37 for 297 yards and a touchdown. UM finished with 481 yards of offense (6.5 per play), against a defense that was allowing 260 yards per game (fourth nationally) and 4.64 yards per play (17th).
An illegal block on receiver Dionte Mullins drove Miami from the 28 back to the 43, a 16-yard penalty that came with 1:04 left. As in, a very bad time for the Hurricanes.
But Rosier, once again, to Langham. When Rosier slid to his left, setting up Badgley’s winning kick, Miami was finishing a 15-play, 85-yard drive lasting 2:26.
Rosier may have struggled early, but he completed 8-of-10 passes for 88 yards on that final march.
That is quality. The new quarterback can lead winning drives. Even without Mark Walton and Ahmmon Richards (who didn’t play Saturday, nursing a balky hamstring).
Travis Homer looks the part.
The sophomore from Oxbridge Academy (via Boynton Beach) made his first college start, and acquitted himself well.
With the lower-the-shoulder style he has shown in his limited action, he rushed for a career-high 170 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 20 carries. He powered his way through a tackle to reach the ball across the goal on a 17-yard touchdown reception that cut the visitors’ lead to 14-13 before the half. His 27-yard rushing score pulled Miami within 2, with 13:36 left.
He wasn’t Mark Walton, but he looked a lot like him. You know, like a No. 1 running back.
“We learn from each other,” said Homer, who keeps his comments brief.
In the fourth quarter, Homer got Miami out of danger with a 21-yard pickup after Miami started at its own 10, and a 13-yard gain after UM started at its own 19. On the final drive, that ended in the winning kick, he ran for 12 yards to get to the 3. That set up Rosier’s slide, and Badgley’s kick.
Another good sign: Homer, who fumbled last year one one of his seven carries, held onto the ball in pouring rain that made the fourth-quarter a sloppy affair. He seems to be over those issues.
“If you saw him in practice, you wouldn’t be shocked,” Quarterman said of Homer’s development. “He earns it from Monday to Friday.”
When it counted, Miami’s defense showed up.
Much like last week at Tallahassee, Miami allowed a few busts and came through in the clutch.
Taking over at its own 27 with more than nine minutes left and a 2-point lead, Georgia Tech was in position to control the rest of the clock. The Yellow Jackets do it to mostly everyone: third-down conversion after third-down conversion, maybe a fourth-down or two, and a double-digit drive ending in a backbreaking touchdown.
Didn’t happen Saturday.
Mike Smith and Kendrick Norton dropped quarterback TaQuon Marshall for a loss, the crowd helped force a false start, and Marshall’s pass under pressure was incomplete. Punt, and Miami took over at its own 19 with all the time it needed to produce a go-ahead score.
Afterward, Manny Diaz shouted out the crowd. Whether it was the noise from the stands or a heavy second-half rain or Diaz’ usual halftime adjustments, Miami held the Yellow Jackets to a season-low 4.6 yards per play, 226 rushing yards, and 4-of-13 on third down. This was one of the nation’s most productive offenses, rain or shine.
Miami held Georgia Tech to a season-low 281 yards, 4.6 yards per play. It averaged 479 and 6.35 coming in.
The visitors were shut out in the second half, aside from a bizarre kickoff play for a touchdown and a field goal. Sloppy conditions helped, sure, but UM’s defense stood firm.
“This team doesn’t flinch,” Diaz said, positing that after the rain started, the crowd and Miami’s attitude sealed the deal.
“We’ve preached hard work and finish, and so far that’s what we’re doing,” Badgley said, speaking about said mindset. “It’s not going to stop.”
Ahmmon Richards (hamstring) didn’t play.
Linebacker Michael Pinckney (chest injury, per WQAM; he was seen grabbing that area as he was helped off the field) did not return in the second half after an injury. Diaz said he didn’t have an update. He praised Mike Smith and Darrion Owens for filling in. Pinckney was the starting Will linebacker.
Not sure what went wrong on the ill-fated onside kick that opened the second half, but UM hasn’t allowed a touchdown that bizarre in a while.
Badgley was asked to boot it 10 yards, and let Miami try to recover it on a bounce. He didn’t get it that far. His kick hit Braxton Berrios in the leg short of the mark — making it a live ball, and letting Georgia Tech’s Lamont Simmons pick it up and go 42 yards untouched to the end zone, making it 21-13.
Punter Zach Feagles, who has been mostly steady this year, shanked one 23 yards to set up Georgia Tech at its own 45 with less than six minutes left and a 2-point lead.
Those were two seniors missing a connection, it would seem, and a freshman punter who will make his share of mistakes (you’ll recall the negative-1-yard punt at Duke).
As for young players thrust into starting roles, besides Homer, UM got so-so returns.
New starting safety Robert Knowles committed a pass-interference call which Georgia Tech didn’t turn into points, and later also allowed a 48-yard catch that set up Tech’s third-quarter field goal. Fellow sophomore Dionte Mullins was called for a chop block with 1:04 left, a 15-yard penalty that stunted Miami’s final drive. Argue the legitimacy of the call as you will, but it was made, and it could have been a killer.
Knowles started for injured safety Sheldrick Redwine. Dee Delaney’s replacement at cornerback, Michael Jackson, didn’t allow big plays. Jackson had a chasedown that saved a touchdown, showing his excellent speed … Navaughn Donaldson’s replacement at right guard, Corey Gaynor, was pulled after the first drive. Hayden Mahoney and Gaynor rotated the rest of the way.