Miami has won last four over Tech

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerOctober 4, 2013 

ATLANTA -- True, Virginia Tech has been a real problem for Georgia Tech. There's no doubt about that.

But Miami is the team that really gets their stingers in a wad over on North Avenue. And that's just who lands on the schedule this week.

Although Tech leads the all-time series 10-8, Miami has won the last four meetings -- many times with teams considered inferior to Tech. Unless Tech finds a way to reverse that trend -- and do it on the road - the Yellow Jackets will discover the Road to Charlotte is much more difficult to traverse.

"It's the first time since the early to mid-90s that they've been 4-0, so there's a lot of excitement and a lot of buzz around their program, and this will be their ACC opener," Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "They will be fully charged and ready to go, so we will have to play much better than we did last week, but we are looking forward to that opportunity."

Johnson said it's too early to push the panic button on the season. He points out that teams with two conference losses can still get in the playoffs. True, but Tech still has road dates against pesky Virginia and No. 3 Clemson and home games against ACC newcomers Syracuse and Pitt. There's definitely not much room for error.

"It's an important game because it's a conference game," Johnson said. "But our guys haven't said anything about 'circle the wagons, this is it.' I mean, 18-22 year olds sometimes can't remember yesterday, must less last year. They do know that Miami has a really good team and that it's a challenge to go down there and play."

While the Miami defense won't be confused with some of the great teams fielded in the Jimmy Johnson Era, they are much improved. The Canes rank No. 2 in the ACC in scoring defense (12.5 points, just ahead of Tech at 12.8) and No. 5 in total defense (289.8 yards).

"They're playing a whole lot of 3-4 and they were almost exclusively a 4-3 team in the last couple years," Johnson said. "I'd say 70 percent of their snaps they are in an odd front. Now, will they do that against us? We'll see."

Miami's aggressive defense is led by linebacker Denzel Perryman, who leads the Canes with 23 tackles.

"He's a good player and Miami has always had good players," Johnson said. "They're very athletic and they can run."

The Georgia Tech defense has been better than most could have anticipated. They've allowed no more than 20 points in a game, but the same was true a year ago prior to the screwy 42-36 overtime loss to Miami. The Yellow Jackets must find a way to stop Miami quarterback Stephen Morris, who has been hampered by a bad ankle, and tailback Duke Johnson, one of the more explosive players in the conference.

Morris has thrown for 626 yards and six touchdowns, with two interceptions, and this year has passed NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and Steve Walsh to become No. 9 among the school's all-time leaders in passing yardage.

Johnson, a sophomore, has rushed for 338 yards (second in the ACC) and four touchdowns and has 1,334 yards in his career. He has scored at least one touchdown in each of the last eight games.

"They've got a lot of weapons," Johnson said. "Duke Johnson is one of the better players in the country."

Miami's big-play ability was on display a year ago. Georgia Tech erased a 19-0 deficit and took a 36-19 lead in the third quarter. But the Canes scored 17 unanswered points and won the game in overtime.

Miami is the first nationally ranked team that Tech has played this season. The last was against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game, a 21-15 loss. Tech's last road game against a ranked opponent resulted in a 42-10 loss to Georgia in the final game of the 2012 regular season. Tech's last win over a ranked team came in 2011 when it beat No. 6 Clemson 31-17.

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