NCF Nation: Davon Johnson

Miami stuns Georgia Tech in overtime

September, 22, 2012
Look who's 2-0 in the Coastal Division.

Miami, the team that refused to quit, overcame a 17-point third-quarter deficit to beat Georgia Tech for the fourth year in a row, 42-36 in overtime. Mike James had an unbelievable game, scoring the winning touchdown from 25 yards out in the extra period -- his fourth score of the afternoon.

You cannot count out these Canes, who came in as the underdogs but have now won both of their ACC games on the road. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, dropped to 1-2 in ACC play.

It was a game of incredible swings. First, Miami jumped out to a 19-0 lead in the first quarter, behind a 65-yard touchdown throw from Stephen Morris to Phillip Dorsett to open the game, and a later a Mike James touchdown run. But Georgia Tech came storming back and scored 36 unanswered points to go up 36-19 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Jackets seemed in complete control.

But Miami dominated from there out, and Georgia Tech's defense was powerless to stop the Canes. First, Jake Wieclaw hit a 23-yard field goal to start closing the gap. Then James scored on a 15-yard touchdown run to make it 36-29. Miami nearly tied the game up on the next drive. James appeared to score but the whistles blew just before the ball was snapped because Georgia Tech called timeout.

The score came off the board, and Miami could do nothing. Wieclaw missed a chip shot field goal -- his first of the game -- and Georgia Tech got the ball back. But on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 48, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson elected to punt instead of go for it -- even though he has one of the top rushing offenses in America AND his defense had proven it could not stop Miami.

That ended up being a costly decision. Miami took the ball 91 yards, and Morris tied up the game with a 10-yard touchdown pass to James.

Georgia Tech got the ball first in overtime, and absolutely stunningly -- Tevin Washington was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 2. Georgia Tech had 287 yards rushing in the game, but could not come up with half an inch when it needed it. That was the story of the fourth quarter for Georgia Tech, really, as the Jackets were held scoreless for the final 20 minutes of regulation and then overtime.

Miami got the ball, and James scored with ease. Morris ended up going 31-of-52 for 436 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Dorsett had nine catches for 184 yards and a touchdown, and Davon Johnson added seven catches for 107 yards.

Miami had 609 total yards, its most against anyone since gaining 628 against McNeese St. in 2000, and its most against an FBS opponent since gaining 689 yards against UCLA in 1998.

As much as Miami has been maligned for its defensive performances this season, the Canes deserve major credit for shutting Georgia Tech down when it absolutely had to.

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

When Miami coach Randy Shannon took over the program three seasons ago, there were only about three or four scholarship receivers on the roster -- far below the usual eight to 10 most schools carry. So this offseason, when receivers coach Aubrey Hill faced the popular question, ‘You’ve got so many receivers, wouldn’t you rather just have one guy?’ his response was logical:

“I said, ‘If you’re at Christmas, would you rather have one toy, or as many toys as you can?”
 AP Photo/J. Pat Carter, File
 Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has plenty of options.

Now, after building depth with recruiting classes that included some of the elite talent in the country, and players who could contribute immediately, the Hurricanes’ toy box overfloweth.

Twelve different players have caught at least one pass for the No. 9-ranked Hurricanes heading into Saturday’s showdown at No. 11 Virginia Tech. And six of them have at least five catches. Seven different players have scored touchdowns in wins over two ranked ACC opponents. Three different receivers have run a reverse. Miami returns nine of its top 10 leaders in all-purpose yards from 2008. Running backs Graig Cooper and Javarris James have helped the Canes to a 7-2 record when they combine for at least 25 carries. And, of course, they’ve finally got a quarterback to lead them all in Jacory Harris.

“This Miami team we’re getting ready to play,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, “Wow.”

Receivers Travis Benjamin, Thearon Collier, Davon Johnson and Kendal Thompkins bring straight speed, quickness, elusiveness and big-play capabilities. Leonard Hankerson and Aldarius Johnson are talented possession players with great hands who move the chains. LaRon Byrd and Tommy Streeter can stretch the field deep with their speed and height. Cooper is elusive, while James is the power back, and Lee Chambers and Mike James provide dependable depth at the position. Tight ends Jimmy Graham and Dedrick Epps have both given the offense a boost, while the offensive line makes it all possible.

 Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
 Graig Cooper has averaged 5.2 yards per carry so far.
“The opposing team can’t just focus on one player,” said Byrd. “You look at a lot of teams in the country, like Oklahoma State. They have Dez Bryant, so you have the defense lock on Dez Bryant and the offense is going to have a tough time. You look at Alabama, Julio Jones. They lock down on him and Alabama is going to have a tough time. You look at us, we have so many weapons you can’t just lock on one player. If you double up on Travis Benjamin, then Aldarius Johnson is going to have a big game. If you double up on him, then Hankerson is going to have a big game, and so forth and so forth.”

Miami’s versatility is not only in its athletes, but also in its playbook. The addition of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, coupled with the wide array of abilities, size and speed on the roster, has made Miami’s offense the total package and extremely difficult to defend.

“He’s just so creative, bringing so many different offenses and making it Miami’s offense,” Hill said. “He’s been one of the most creative offensive coordinators I’ve been around and knowing how to set-up plays, run and pass. That’s been really good for the whole coaching staff and also the players because they’re really, really excited to come into the meeting room to see what the mad scientist is creating next.”

In fact, some of the Canes have gotten into it so much some have tried to write their own plays on the board.

“Some have had consideration,” Hill said with a chuckle, “and some haven’t.”

Almost all of the players, though, have had their moments in the spotlight.

“We spread the wealth around to each guy,” Shannon said. “They know that they have to run their routes and everything full speed because they don’t ever know when Jacory is going to throw the football to them. That’s the difference in this team.

“The best thing about it is the competition in practice. You don’t have to worry about a guy getting too extreme as far as thinking he’s the guy who makes the offense run, or he’s the guy who makes the defense run. We’ve got depth at those positions to say, ‘You know what? You don’t want to work hard? OK, fine. We love you, and you’re part of this program, but we’re going to go with somebody else.’ That’s a big help.”

And it’s a nightmare for opposing defenses -- even ones as renowned as Virginia Tech's.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for them,” said Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster. “They’re just right now, really a complete football team.”